Category Archives: Augmented Reality

Google unveils concept video for augmented reality glasses

Earlier this year several media outlets reported that Google was working on a pair of Android-powered augmented reality “goggles” that would overlay information on their user’s visual field. Today, Google officially acknowledged the project, called “Project Glass,” and unveiled a concept video that shows how this device might allow people to more seamlessly view and capture information:

I know a first generation product like this will have bugs to work out, but I still want a pair so bad.

“Eyeborg” documentary spotlights real-life cyborgs

I’ve been pretty enthralled with the new Deus Ex: Human Revolution video game, which takes place in a near-future world where humans are beginning to throw off the shackles of biology through non-biological “augmentations” – think bionic limbs, neural implants, artificial eyes, and so on that surpass the capabilities of the parts they’re replacing.

To promote the game, publisher Square Enix enlisted “real-life cyborg” Rob Spence, a.k.a. “Eyeborg,” to create a short documentary of people who are on the cutting edge of prosthetics technology.

Spence is notable for having replaced a missing eye – lost in a firearms accident – with a wireless video camera, which he uses to capture low-resolution video footage. In this mini-documentary he speaks with individuals who have benefited from advanced prosthetics, as well as those who engineer them, and splices in footage from his eye throughout.

It’s an interesting way to promote a video game, and a reminder of how far we’ve come with prosthetics. After all, it wasn’t long ago when the standard-issue “replacement” for a missing hand was a hook. We’ve got a long way to go before people start abandoning their natural body parts for human-made replacements, but it may not be so far-fetched a concept in the near future.

Advancements in “smart” contact lenses will lead to augmented vision

"I need your clothes, your boots and your motorcycle."

If you were to ask me about my transhuman tech wish list, I’d probably rattle off things like radically extended lifespans, benevolent artificial intelligence and molecular nanotechnology. Not far behind, however, would be my desire for augmented reality contact lenses.

The fact that I can get augmented reality on my phone, for example, is exciting, but clunky. I want as seamless a transition as possible to bring information from the outside world through my eyes to my brain and display that information in a way that meets my needs. I want to look at people and see what information they list in their Facebook profiles. I want to look at buildings and landmarks and see their history. I may even want to, on occasion, re-skin my entire visual reality to something I find more aesthetically pleasing.

Apart from some sort of implant, contact lenses are about as close as we might get to “seamless” for these purposes. Already a Swiss company called Sensimed has a commercial solution for a contact lens that incorporates circuits to monitor the eye for symptoms of glaucoma. The information is beamed to an antenna worn near the eye, which in turn powers the lens and is connected to a small recorder. A terrific advancement in contact lens technology, but far from augmented vision.

Researcher Babak Parviz from the University of Washington is using similar technology to create a contact lens capable of monitoring glucose levels in tears, which would prevent diabetics from having to prick their fingers to measure blood glucose levels. More exciting for me, however, is Parviz’s research into contact-lens mounted displays, as he sounds optimistic about the prospects:

In the meantime, his lab has made progress with contact lens displays. They have developed both red and blue miniature LEDs – leaving only green for full colour – and have separately built lenses with 3D optics that resemble the head-up visors used to view movies in 3D.

Parviz has yet to combine both the optics and the LEDs in the same contact lens, but he is confident that even images so close to the eye can be brought into focus. “You won’t necessarily have to shift your focus to see the image generated by the contact lens,” says Parviz. It will just appear in front of you, he says. The LEDs will be arranged in a grid pattern, and should not interfere with normal vision when the display is off.

Parviz wrote a piece last year for IEEE Spectrum in which he details his team’s progress on contact lens displays, as well as the technical hurdles that will need to be overcome in order to successfully create contacts suitable for augmented vision, as I described above. Again, though, his optimism for this technology shines through:

All the basic technologies needed to build functional contact lenses are in place. We’ve tested our first few prototypes on animals, proving that the platform can be safe. What we need to do now is show all the subsystems working together, shrink some of the components even more, and extend the RF power harvesting to higher efficiencies and to distances greater than the few centimeters we have now. We also need to build a companion device that would do all the necessary computing or image processing to truly prove that the system can form images on demand. We’re starting with a simple product, a contact lens with a single light source, and we aim to work up to more sophisticated lenses that can superimpose computer-generated high-resolution color graphics on a user’s real field of vision.

The true promise of this research is not just the actual system we end up making, whether it’s a display, a biosensor, or both. We already see a future in which the humble contact lens becomes a real platform, like the iPhone is today, with lots of developers contributing their ideas and inventions. As far as we’re concerned, the possibilities extend as far as the eye can see, and beyond.

Bring on the Terminator vision.

(Via NewScientist)

Hacked Kinect delivers on “Minority Report” style computer interfaces

In the movie Minority Report, precrime chief John Anderton is able to interact with a holographic display using a series of gestures, as seen here:

When Microsoft recently released its Xbox 360 peripheral, called Kinect, they intended it to be primarily used for gaming. However, a number of enterprising hardware hackers have re-purposed Kinect for a variety of non-gaming uses, ranging from robotic telepresence to augmented reality shadow puppets. Earlier this week, the wizards at Evoluce, who design and create multi-touch and gesture based displays, released video of their work with the Kinect. While we still have a way to go on the holographic display piece, they’ve made significant progress on creating a workable interface that responds to gestures. They’re not too far off from what was imagined in Minority Report, particularly when it comes to navigating a 3D map or sorting a series of images.

(Via Engadget)