Augmented Reality Headsets
An augmented reality headset is an electronic device that allows users to see computer-generated images overlaid on their real-world environment. They can be wired or wireless and use a smartphone, a PC, or a dedicated AR device for their display.
Apple is reportedly working on a mixed-reality (VR) headset that will be built into a pair of headphones, codenamed N301. It will support swappable headbands, and be less than a pound.
MIT researchers develop X-ray vision headset
X-ray vision used to be something only the most diehard sci-fi geeks would get excited about, but thanks to a new headset from MIT researchers, you may no longer need to be Superman or a superhero to see through objects. The augmented reality headset, known as X-AR, uses a combination of computer vision and wireless sensing to locate items that are labeled with RFID tags, even when they’re hidden behind boxes or other objects.
The headset works by connecting with a database of tagged objects, identifying the location of each object and then showing the user its exact position in a holographic display on the headset’s screen. It’s designed to be used by warehouse workers who need to find specific items in small environments, such as a warehouse or manufacturing plant.
For the project, MIT engineers first created an antenna that could connect with RFID-tagged items. This antenna was a challenge, as it had to be lightweight and compact enough to fit into the headset without obstructing the wearer’s view.
In tests conducted in a warehouse environment, the headset was able to localize hidden items within 9.8 centimeters on average, according to a paper by the team. It also had a 96 percent accuracy rate, allowing users to pick up the correct item every time.
Currently, the headset only works at a distance of about 3 meters, but the team is hoping to enhance it using different sensing modalities, like WiFi, mmWave technology, or terahertz waves, in future iterations. This could help it improve its visualization and interaction capabilities, along with extending its range for use by multiple headsets.
The team’s research was supported by the National Science Foundation and the MIT Media Lab. Ranveer Chandra, Managing Director of Industry Research at Microsoft, called the research “a significant step forward.” He added that X-AR could be an important part of the future of AR systems, bringing a new sensing modality to AR. However, he warned that this kind of surveillance augmented reality headset is not without its risks, and is also limited by privacy laws.
Apple develops an AR/VR headset
Apple has been developing an augmented reality headset for years and is planning to launch it at a future date. Several reports have surfaced recently that hint at what this device may look like and how it will function.
The device will likely be a virtual-reality (VR)-type headset, and is expected to cost about $3,000. According to the most recent rumors from respected Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, this will be the first device that Apple launches as it pushes forward with a new approach to VR.
Unlike most current AR/VR headsets, which are tethered to computers for power and network connectivity, this device will reportedly be untethered from the computer and be wirelessly connected. It will feature high-resolution displays, eye tracking, and cameras that can blend a world in augmented reality with virtual reality.
It will also have the ability to connect to a dedicated box over short-range 60GHz WiGig wireless technology, which is faster and more stable than existing mobile networks. It will also have a 5-nanometer processor that resembles a PC tower.
Another rumor claims that Apple’s AR/VR headset will have an iris scanner as well, which will allow it to authenticate its users as soon as they put on the headset. This can be beneficial if a user shares the device with others, as is often the case with virtual-reality devices.
A report from Bloomberg corroborates this idea, saying that Apple’s board of directors saw a demo of the device last week. Its engineers are working on an operating system for the headset, which will probably make its debut at WWDC next month.
This could also be the beginning of a long line of mixed-reality headsets from Apple. The company is rumored to be aiming for this to be the first in a series of AR/VR headsets that will eventually include glasses, too.
If Apple does indeed develop an AR/VR headset, it will likely be an expensive and complicated gadget that doesn’t really take advantage of the technology right now. However, it’s expected to be a good investment for the company because it will allow it to compete with other major players in the AR/VR space, including Microsoft and Samsung.
MIT researchers develop a holographic system for tracking objects
MIT researchers are developing an augmented reality headset that allows users to locate objects in their surroundings. The system, called X-AR, sends a wireless signal to items that have tags, letting the headset visualize them for the user and guide their way towards them. The holographic system is designed to see through things like cardboard and plastic, making it easy to track down lost belongings.
The MIT team built a deep convolutional neural network that can generate holograms by processing input images. It uses much less memory than the classic hologram generating methods, and can render 2 holograms per second using a single GPU. The system also has a low power consumption and can run on smartphones and AR devices.
However, the holographic media itself is not easy to create and requires high-level data management and specialized hardware. Moreover, the entropy of a hologram is very high and is difficult to compress efficiently. This problem is further complicated by the fact that diffuse surface elements emit random phase delays, which lead to speckle noise. In addition, it is difficult to separate speckle noise from the underlying signal.
To address these limitations, a new method is proposed to optimize compression efficiency by minimizing the entropy of the hologram plane data and by leveraging the inherent properties of 3D space (i.e., amplitude and phase modulation). The method is capable of compressing holograms with a low bit-rate and without compromising visual quality. It is tested on a holographic scene with high resolution and heterogeneous content.
Another approach to improve compression efficiency is to use a low-resolution image target as a reference for the hologram to stabilize its location. This is effective in a wide range of conditions and reduces perceived drift and point localization accuracy. It is particularly useful in holograms that have large dynamic changes, such as a moving object.
Several studies have shown that tracking accuracy can be improved by using a reference image target for hologram stabilization. For example, a study of a 3D-printed skull phantom found that the addition of an image target decreased mean drift from 4.39 mm to 1.41 mm and improved point localization accuracy from 5.43 mm to 1.92 mm. This technique can be used in various applications where holograms are displayed to patients or other human subjects.
MIT researchers develop a system for locating hidden objects
MIT researchers have developed an augmented reality headset that lets users see hidden objects that have been labeled with RFID tags. They call it X-AR and say it could help workers in e-commerce warehouses and retail stores quickly find items augmented reality headset amid cluttered shelves or in manufacturing facilities locate tools and items as they assemble products.
The device combines wireless sensing with computer vision to help users perceive things that are invisible to the human eye. Using radio-frequency (RF) signals that can pass through common materials like cardboard boxes, plastic containers or wooden dividers, it finds hidden items labeled with RFID tags and sends them a signal to reflect back on the headset’s antenna. When the headset identifies an object, it gives it a sphere on its interface that guides the user toward it.
To create the X-AR system, the team first had to build a lightweight, transparent antenna that could communicate with RFID tags. Most RFID locators require multiple antennas spaced apart from each other, but the MIT team optimized one lightweight, flexible loop antenna to handle enough bandwidth to transmit and receive signals with the tags. They then used a technique called synthetic aperture radar, which is similar to how airplanes image objects on the ground, to pinpoint the location of an object.
According to MIT, the system takes measurements with its antenna from different vantage points “as the user moves around the room,” then it combines those measurements. Then, it creates a map of the surroundings and determines the headset’s position within that environment.
As a result, the system can locate an object with high accuracy — even when it’s hiding behind an occlusion or inside a closed box. The device’s holographic visualization capabilities also display the path to the tagged item in the form of footprints on the floor that can update dynamically as the wearer walks.
The researchers tested the X-AR system in a warehouse environment, and found that it could localize hidden items to within 9.8 centimeters on average. They also verified that users could pick up the correct item with 96 percent accuracy. Those results are impressive, especially for a device that’s intended to be used by people in warehouses or at manufacturing plants.