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Portable augmented reality

Computer monitors are by no means an endangered species, but it is becoming increasingly apparent that they will soon be replaced for many uses by floors, walls and table tops.

The latest evidence: a Microsoft Research scientist has developed a projector and computer vision system dubbed PlayAnywhere (PDF) that projects interactive computer-generated images without the need for specially mounted cameras.

Researchers have been reducing the cost and complexity of the augmented reality systems in recent years. (See PCs augment reality, TRN June 26/July 3, 2002)

The PlayAnywhere system goes further by packaging the components into a single portable unit that doesn't require calibration. The system consists of an NEC tabletop projector, an infrared light source, an infrared camera and a computer. The device projects a 40-inch diagonal image onto the surface it stands on.

Computer vision techniques allow users to use their hands to move, rotate and scale projected virtual objects. The system tracks shadows to determine where fingertips touch the surface; frame-to-frame pixel-level changes determine hand motion. The system also keeps track of sheets of paper in its view and can project images onto them.

The projector system could be used for games, educational software and other interactive graphical computer applications.

(PlayAnywhere: A Compact Interactive Tabletop Projection-Vision System, Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology (UIST 2005), Seattle, October 23-26, 2005)
A tabletop sized projector is not my idea of portable augmented reality.

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