GADGETS GIZMOS GEEKS – By Manil S Dodani
Does Tony Stark’s heads up display coupled with Jarvis titillate you? Do you want to interact with holograms like those in Tom Cruise starrer, Minority Report? Do the cutting edge, special effects-based computers in Avatar make you wish you had one of your own? All of the above will soon be possible, thanks to Augmented Reality
Augmented Reality or AR is (according to WeboPedia) a type of virtual reality that aims to duplicate the world’s environment in a computer. So basically, a computer creates a fake reality before your eyes and superimposes it on the real world (a la Google Glass). This augmented reality can be used to display useful information like GPS, temperature, date and time, and in certain advanced devices web browsers, videos and even music information. This reality is something you can interact with, much like in the real world. Augmented reality is brilliant technology, and its applications are many. Including, but not limited to entertainment, armed forces training, medical industries, and robotics. Oh and also NASA.
BATTLEFIELDS WILL NEVER BE THE SAME
Augmented Reality is now available to everyone, readily. Multiple apps on the App and Play Stores are available, for you to experience a new reality. But let’s get one thing clear first – AR can enhance your already existing reality and provide relevant contextual information. However (except in real time applications), it simply can’t create a new reality. Imagine crossing a crowded street, replete with speeding vehicles and pedestrians, and recalling the age old adage: look to your left, then right then left again and cross. It still applies, but AR gave it a little upgrade; it can calculate how long you have to cross the street, how far away the next vehicle is and if there’s a shorter way to get to your destination.
However, the most popular application of this technology is making things fun. The video game industry has been one of the premier industries to release some hands-on demos. Remember good old Pac Man? Human Pac Man puts you in the game (quite literally) where you and another player wearing AR goggles run around in the real world and the goggles simulate you and other users to be Pac Man characters! Gone are the days when summer vacations used to be about trading cards and Monopoly, you can now hold up your smart phone to a baseball trading card and watch your favorite player come alive in 3D and take a strike or run to third base, thanks to Total Immersion, an overseas video game company. That’s not all. AR video gaming has moved medical treatment from the hospital to at-home. A researcher in Sweden has this fancy looking contraption in his house where he is studying (and treating) a patient with an amputated limb. Using a computer generated image of the missing arm, he tricks the brain into thinking that the arm is restored. The patient then uses this AR arm to steer a car in a video game setting thereby reducing pain and improving sensation in the missing arm!
Last year the US military revealed an AR system designed for soldiers on the battlefield. Taking cues from the popular Google Glass, soldiers will have a ‘smart helmet’ that can stream relevant information such as past explosions, navigational waypoints, video feeds for incoming aircrafts and maps. This improves overall information availability thereby making the mission easier to accomplish without spending time on radio contact to retrieve information from command centers. The helmet adjusts to the soldiers’ field of view and adjusts information accordingly. A team of soldiers could be given a helmet and thereby co-ordination and speed could be improved greatly. This is Halo, for real.
GO GO GADGET
Devices in the AR world are primarily head mounted since they rely on the principle of creating virtual reality before your eyes. This section gives you a lowdown on the niche to the popular, from the affordable to price -on-request devices.
1 Oculus Rift (Rs 21000 approx): The big daddy, the diva probably the best known device in the AR universe that sports two images (one for every eye) of 640×400 resolution to combine and form single image, much like a pair of binoculars. This headset creates a 3D image which rotates as per the movement of your head. Game studios like Valve (Counter-Strike fame) and Unity are already involved in coming out with consumer products.
2 Google Glass – Explorer Edition (Rs 90,000 approx): Google Glass operates on a stock OS and does everything your smartphone can do except making calls. Information is displayed as is relevant and this product has opened a world of myriad opportunities, from medical treatment to safer highways and cars.
3 Sony HMZ- T1 Personal 3D viewer (Rs 65,000 approx): One of the only devices to reach the consumer market shelves that allows you to connect HDMI sources from Blu-Ray to your home set top box! Imagine watching the World Cup on a screen that looks like it was a movie theatre! Featuring OLED screens with no latency, this one rocked me to my core.
4 Vuzix M100 (price to be announced): Much like the Google Glass this device is super affordable say sources. With a smartphone equivalent processor this device sports a HD camera, WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, a compass, and both microUSB and microSD slots. No glass here though, an eyepiece is what you get here so it literally adds to what you see right out of your eye! Available soon.
APPS of the MONTH
TOP 5 AUGMENTED REALITY APPS
Get these cool new apps that channelise the inner geek in you and take your reality to a whole new level
Google Goggle is a new app by play store which helps people access an ocean of information just with the use of a mobile camera on their smart phones. You can read about landmarks, logos, books, places by simply scanning them through the camera.
ACROSSAIR AUGMENTED REALITY BROWSER
Platforms : iOS
It is a 3D navigation app that allows people to find their way precisely while being informed about their surroundings. Hold the phone vertically and look at buildings and streets in the surrounding through the phone camera; bubbles appear on the screen, providing information about the building, then simply hold it horizontally to get a map and pin landmarks.
Platforms : Android, iOS, Blackberry
Another augmented reality app which depends solely on use of the camera. Focus your camera on any street or building and it will provide thousands of layers of related information. Tweets from the area will also be displayed.
This app minimises risks while driving and increases safety just with the use of the phone camera, GPS and sensors. It prevents the driver from going off road by navigating and decreases chances of a collision by issuing a warning when a vehicle gets too close.
Platforms: iOS, Android
An augmented reality game that lets you transform your surroundings into a battleground against aliens. You can move your camera around 360 degrees and point it anywhere to find and eliminate space invaders. In a way, your smart phone becomes a portal to look into another reality.
Volume 4 Issue 10