There was a lot to be excited about at this years’ Siggraph. When I went to the conference, I knew about the Nvidia Light Field HMD and had a list of exhibitors checked off to go see – but it almost always seems like its the unexpected things that turn out to be the most interesting!
“Exceed Your Vision” was the tagline at the Epson booth where they were showcasing the Moverio BT-100 see-through display with a collection of partners who have been working on developing applications for it.
The HMD itself is clearly an initial offering and it’s encouraging to see companies like Epson bringing a product like this to market. The device has two prism based transparent display elements which can work together to provide a stereoscopic image. But there is no integrated head tracking, camera or sensor – so getting the image floating in your vision to match up with the real reality you are also seeing requires additional equipment.
To demonstrate where things could be going, one of their partners called Meta does combine a 3D sensor for object detection and gesture recognition. The vision for the project is pretty grand, and it’s clear there is a long way to go for an immersive and intuitive augmented reality experience – but its also pretty amazing to see what they are already doing. The most impressive part of the demo was the system’s ability to detect a sheet of paper I was holding in front of me and overlay video content which was scaled, oriented and positioned properly as if it was on the paper itself. It’s not particularly practical to warp a video onto the shape of the paper, but it does show how powerful a system could be that is able to analyze the world around us to incorporate real objects into interfaces and display surfaces.
Let me be clear that I want awesome augmented reality. I think most of us do. What I expect someday is Terminator or Iron Man style visual overlays where the computer is constantly scanning and aware of everything I can see. It identifies people and objects that are of interest, looks up all the pertinent data and tells me whatever I might want to know – helping me understand the world around me with superhuman senses. I imagine natural ways of interacting with the system using voice, eye movement, and gestures. All of this needs to happen with little to no latency, and be calibrated to my personal physiology and vision so the computer display meshes seamlessly with the real world.
It goes without saying that what we have today falls short of those expectations, and these AR challenges are hard and numerous. The equipment that Epson has built and the systems that their partners like Meta are developing are the first ones we actually have – and although there is obviously room for improvement in almost every dimension, it’s clear to me that with persistence and ingenuity we will actually get there.
Julius Tuomisto – Delicode http://z-vector.com
The tag line for Delicode is “Shaping the future of natural interaction” but what I think they really have with Z-Vector is a super nifty party toy. The system uses an Oculus VR devkit with a PrimeSense sensor bar strapped on top and software Julius has written to give the user a psychedelic experience by processing and displaying the data of the space around them with color and patterns that are visualizations of the musical soundtrack you play through it. You can download it for free and use it with or without the headset or sensor bar. Its pretty trippy, and I like it.