Augmented Reality is more than Virtual Reality
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Last week I noticed an app I frequently used was suddenly missing. Soon after, a little utility program I'd written for myself had also disappeared.
Researching this led me to call the manufacturer of my sim*, and they told me that the app fell victim to censorship as they didn't like the major news magazine it connected to (that wasn't their words but what it meant; it was all about the content of the publication!).
The utility on the other hand. had alerted a virus scanner. A simple text converter of my own making. Come on.
They actually deleted these items from my sim. No kidding: them, from my device.
I must state that I only purchased this one because anybody said it was the latest and best, a real must-have, so I had to try it by profession. Having heard the feeble excuses from the service people, I decided to ask for a refund.
The entire issue reminded me to those days when similar things first occurred. This type of app dealing to computer illiterates earned the nickname "vegetable computing". Well I'm not vegetable. If they don't take this monstrosity back my lawyers will tell them.
Could it be that they've already forgotten what this will lead to? Do these companies employ toddlers? Equipment like this was a hazard during the Cyberwars already, and not only then.
Millions of these idiots-gizmos were turned into bots via their remote puppet strings. Somebody would always find ways to exploit them.
Even less obviously dangerous things, as the auto-update functions of plain-vanilla OS, once led to the destruction of all data on hundreds of million PC's: insider information helped distributing malware to anyone who had activated their auto-update, and before anybody really noticed what was going on, millions of businesses were grounded, hundreds of billions in damages done and an economical crisis of formidable size unleashed. It was foreseeable, it was inevitable to occur, and so it did.
And after all this, now they are programming 'vegetable' functions into brand-new, high-end cyberglasses? It's an insult.
By the way, did I mention that once upon a time, a car maker equipped their products with wireless auto-update for the central computer (which also controlled the brakes)? It may potentially have saved them recalls, but ...
*slang for vision simulator, or display glasses
Yesterday, I grabbed a really cool click-on accessory for my sim* : a tiny tele camera, called 'SnipyCam'.
It is only a few millimeters across, but has micro motors for pointing and stabilizing, fits to my sim frame, and connects to my sim computer via SST (Serial Spider Thread).
So what does it do? If I look at something distant, for example a price tag too small to read, it can center in on it and deliver a small overlay picture that appears in my sim, containing an enlargement of the price tag.
Much better than having zooms on the position cams, that would only add to the weight. And more convenient because it is an entirely independent gadget that only delivers additional pictures in response to signals from my eye trackers.
Moreover, it is able to work over a large angular range, because it can be tilted and turned by its micro motors.
With such a view, I can really feel like a hawk. Incidentally the camera comes bundled with a leather cap ...
*slang for vision simulator, or display glasses
They've done it again! Made a head mounted display bigger than the head, and people are buying it. Think I'm nuts? Not at all. I'm talking about the latest in biker's gear, the 'F-66 Bike Pilot's Helmet' that lets you feel like a fighter pilot; with target display, eye-aiming, see-through everything, but alas no missiles …because of the liberals.
Joking aside, hasn't it always been a bit difficult for bikers to see their instruments, and don't they ware helmets anyway?
Isn't it strange that nobody has come up with this before, at a time when building display glasses was still difficult, yet integrating them into a helmet was not.
The new bike helmets now offer lots of weird visualizations, some of them quite unsafe; for example, riding through a flame tunnel. Less insane are the anti-blinding mask display, radar view through fog, and the good ol' navigator app.
And of course the police have also adopted HMD helmets. Video cameras, hawkeye functions, eye-directed laser speed meters and tactical data displays are but some of the options available.
Mother of all pools
Last Saturday I was shopping in the $100* General Store and stumbled on a nifty pair of swimming goggles. The blister pack text said ..."Ocean in your pool", "turns any pool into the great blue seas", and "works indoors and outdoors".
I was stunned, how could such a cheap gizmo "made in Congo" accomplish this?
I read more of the description, gave it a try and to my surprise it (almost) kept to its promise. What it does is quite simple: it takes pictures from two cameras and manipulates them before sending them to two tiny displays with optics right in front of your eyes. Because of the low field-of-view and quality you would normally be expecting from conventional swimming goggles, this works astonishingly well, even with a cheap setup.
Nevertheless the amount of technology involved is still amazing in absolute terms. The entire experience reminds me of times when quite sophisticated pocket calculators were sold for just a few bucks, in any flea market, products that would have cost a fortune only some 20 years before.
* Inflation did that
So this gadget still had quite acceptable resolution, and displays producing awesome brightness and breathtaking colors.
The recipe for signal processing is simple: extend the water surface of a pool to the horizon, replace the pool bottom and sides with an ocean floor and the ceiling with a bright tropical sky. And from the real world, only the people and other objects populating the pool are merged into the virtual image. The pool sides are marked by thin lines floating on the waves, so you'll know when to turn.
I tried out my new toy as soon as possible and in spite of a few minor rendering issues the illusion it created was almost perfect; especially because the waves immediately around me were almost unchanged, hence very real. Everything else was a seamlessly fitted extension taken from this.
The sea floor could be selected as shallow, deep or beach. A coastline is also simulated, with or without pebbles. A lagoon, with or without reefs, or an ocean floor sloping indefinitely (in reality this can be disconcerting, because you can't help wondering what may appear out of the endless murky depths).
Clouds float serenely across the sky, shifting and transforming as they go. And even the time of day and the weather are selectable. In all, I'd say the device provided far more than expected.
This concept could only work with such a special application, of course, since your entire field of view is replaced by the camera pictures. The sides of the goggles are lit by simple LEDs in sympathy with the color of the virtual image on the inside face of the glasses, so you don't feel you're wearing horse blinders, in spite of the limited viewing angle.
I quickly learned to appreciate this ingenious gadget, but on one (virtually) sunny day I was in for a little surprise.
I was swimming along a virtual coastline with a "deep ocean alongside" when suddenly I noticed something huge appearing from the deeps. This turned out to be a white shark!
I held my breath for a few seconds before realizing it was an illusion, and ripped off my goggles.
What lesson can we learn from this? Never let your kids tinker with your toys!
Flying my virtual bird gym machine through foreign landscapes always presented a problem - the experience often dropped down to satellite photo level when the density of webcams and live material from personal cams diminished. As this is most often the case in the most spectacular environments, it was all so often a major disappointment to me.
Last week however I stumbled over an ad labeled "Drone Rentals". First I couldn't make out what it was, but an illustration pointed me in the right direction - you rent an unmanned toy plane equipped with a camera, you fly it by web control and get it's live pictures in your sim, also over the web.
I couldn't believe I'd never heard of it. The company told me, when I contacted them, they had been around for decades (early adopters logged in with them by PC's), and since the web had really become fast enough for their business, they don't know where to get more planes from quickly enough.
The plane business is just one of their offerings however, and it is a difficult one because soon after it had been started, they ran up against restrictions that amounted almost to full regulations for a private plane. Not just security concerns had been the reason for this, also people who felt disturbed by an "eye in the sky" watching them in their private premises.
So they also pointed me to their new canoe services - little boats with real little paddles simulating real canoes in all detail, ready for a trip down a wild river, across lakes, or mangrove swamps.
I could easily link the controls of my rowing machine to the app, but the real kick comes when I move my local paddle. The remote steering does exactly the same with the toy canoe paddle, the only force driving the little boat. This feels very real, since the camera on the boot delivers amazing real-time pictures from all directions.
Of course I also tried the airplane option, choosing one that mimicked an actual bird for the home gym. If necessary I would have qualified for a general motor plane license, but for this wilderness trip the bird was more than adequate. It must have been a type of pterosaur (I could see a few parts of it while flying), and it was such fun that I'll be trying this more often. It's only disadvantage: This is not in any way a cheap pleasure.
The End of Harware 3rd Ed.
from 'Laser Dilemma' section
ISMAR 2008 keynote
'Look outside the window'
from office example
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An essay about a very specialized technology for large screen 3D displays, not fitting the scope of this book, kept on this website nevertheless.
Copyright © 2006-2011 Rolf R. Hainich; all materials on this website are copyrighted.
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