Vuzix launched a camera add-on for the iWear VR920 video headset which surveys the space in front of the cam, and superimposes interactive, 3D graphics on top. Here what was on display at GDC 09.
The hardware itself is just a camera that sits in front of the eyewear, and feeds a signal back to your eyes. The magic happens when an app is programmed to recognise certain objects, and know to augment what your seeing with 3D visuals on top.
This resulted in four demos at GDC, developed by Metaio: A knight and dragon fighting in a Lego scene, An alien invasion on top of a magazine page, digital doodlings on top of a specially marked surface using the optional PhasAR controller and a virtual shooting range, where the PhasAR is clipped into a gun-like shell controller. While the headset itself still feels pretty clunky and dated, the new camera tech has a lot of potential.
Both the knight and dragon demo, and the alien invasion demo are similar in that they add 3D animations on top of a predetermined object. However, the knight and dragon demo has 3D spatial recognition that knows exactly how the lego are built in all directions. If you navigate the camera away from these objects, the graphics and animations disappear. Move back on the scene, and within a couple of seconds, the eye candy reappears. You can even use the PhasAR to trigger animations. It's really cool to see the tech used in a more consumer-centric manner.
The digital doodler demo makes use of specially marked spaces that are reminiscent of QR barcodes, and when it sees that space, it knows to start superimposing doodles on the screen. You hold the PhasAR like a pen, and start moving it in the air, and as you do that, the screen is littered with your handiwork. I'm sure we'll see a bunch of virtual graffiti kiosks popping up around this eventually.
The fourth demo is the virtual shooting range, where more of those QR tiles are placed in the distance, the PhasAR is clipped into its gun shell, and in your headset is a 3D shooting range, where you can blast away to your heart's content. While this is essentially the same as playing a shooting game on the Wii (with something on your face), it's neat to think you could hypothetically set this up anywhere and casually pop a couple caps.
Like most of these hardware tech demos at GDC, developer support is key to the CamAR and PhasAR having any relevance to consumers. Vuzix says they'll begin pushing the hardware to developers in 30 days and have the product to market this summer, which will run on most computers released in the last 4-5 years. They expect both products to retail for under $US100 apiece, and will also have a CamAR/VR920 bundle for those lacking the headset. [Vuzix]
Vuzix to introduce the World's First Consumer Augmented Reality Video Eyewear at 2009 Game Developers Conference
See this groundbreaking technology at Booth Number 6420 NH
London, Wednesday March 25: Vuzix Corporation, the leader in video eyewear for the mainstream consumer, defence and low vision markets, will showcase a game-changing Augmented Reality Accessory Kit for the popular VR920 Virtual Reality Video iWear.
Partnering with metaio, Inc., a world leader in augmented reality software solutions, Vuzix will demonstrate at the 2009 GDC how a simple printed page can be brought to life with 3-D animated characters that literally pop out of the book and fire breathing dragons from a fantasy tale can swoop overhead.
Vuzix AR Accessory Kit consists of two main features:
· CamAR™, a clip-on USB camera that mounts onto a pair of Vuzix Video iWear. The CamAR not only allows the user to see through to the real world but is also designed to accurately track objects and the user's position in 3-dimensional space.
· PhasAR™, a wireless augmented reality input controller is designed to be used in unison with the CamAR™. The PhasAR™ allows users to interact with virtual, mixed and augmented reality worlds with a revolutionary 6 degree of freedom tracking system that lets the computer know exactly where the user is touching in the virtual and real worlds. Depending on the application, the PhasAR™ can become anything from a powerful virtual magic wand to a 3-D virtual paint brush. The PhasAR™ enables powerful 2-D like mouse support in order to effortlessly control virtual objects in 3-D space.
Together, these new devices allow the user to perceive and interact with the real world in ways they have never dreamed of before.
"This capability, known as Augmented Reality (AR), will open up new applications in the gaming, education and business sectors," said Vuzix CEO, Paul Travers. "The applications for gaming and education will range from books that come alive to interactive worlds with 3-D characters that materialise right in your living room."
"You have to ask yourself," said Travers, "why play video games on your flat panel when it can be brought right into your living room?"
If you are visiting GDC, please visit booth number 6420 NH for the opportunity to experience this technology for the first time.
Additionally, we are also happy to set up interviews where available for an in-depth review of this technology. Images available on request.
Come and meet us at The Gadget Show Live at the Birmingham NEC in the UK on the 17-19th April to try out the Vuzix iWear range which offers a big-screen experience from a device that fits in your pocket. Connect with one of many mobile devices and you can enjoy a virtual screen of up to 62" for all of your mobile content including 3D.