GCN Tech Blog

By GCN Staff

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Augmented reality is way out

Remember how, in The Terminator , the California governor-styled cyborg assassin had an eye implant that scanned the surroundings and provided potentially-useful readouts about this ever-changing environment? The folks at the Defense Department might have taken notice.

Late last month, the DOD's Office of the Chief Information Officer sought input on developing augmented reality technologies.

The idea of augmented reality, or AR, is to overlay some view of the world with additional information. In a sense, this is what many Web 2.0-styled mashups already do with maps as backdrops. So it's a short leap from overlaying information on maps to overlaying the information on some sort display of the world itself, perhaps using an automobile windshield or a pair of goggles.

"On the battlefield, AR could have an important role in disseminating tactical intelligence. Soldiers with head-mounted displays might, for example, read street names superimposed on the ground, follow [color]-coded arrows for patrols or retreats, and see symbols indicating known or potential sniper nests, weapons caches and hiding places for booby-traps. The displays could also show the locations of friendly forces and levels of ammunition and other supplies, as in a video game," conjectures the Economist in a recent issue about emerging technologies.

As the concept emerges from the wilderness of SciFi speculation, researchers are starting to grapple with the challenges of making it work with today's equipment. The IEEE Spectrum pointed out a few engineering challenges that Georgia Institute of Technology researchers and students found while building AR prototypes.

"The biggest technological challenge is to track position and orientation," the researchers write. "For the display to have a chance of appearing perfectly aligned, the orientation error must be less than the visual angle of one pixel on the display. A typical display today might have a field of view of 24 degrees and a horizontal resolution of 800 pixels, meaning that an orientation error greater than 0.03 degree would result in perceptible misalignment between the virtual and physical objects."

Posted by Joab Jackson on Dec 26, 2007 at 9:39 AM


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