AR & Eye-tracking tools that boost reality
In the future, a mere glance at your smartphone will provide you with your location or the name of who you have just met
By Marlowe Hood (AFP) – 22 hours ago
MEGEVE, France — Picture this: As your eyes alight for the first time on a skyscraper in a foreign cityscape, a disembodied voice whispers in your ear the phone number of a posh bar on the top floor.
Or this: You have been spotted on the street by an old friend whose name suddenly eludes you. But even before there is time to shake hands, a glance at your smartphone reveals her identity and the date of your last encounter.
Welcome to the world of augmented reality, the here-and-now enhancement of everyday experience through virtual, interactive technology.
Prototypes of both of these applications — based on the novel use of eye-tracking tools — were presented last weekend at the inaugural Augmented Human International Conference.
Over two days, engineers and scientists gathered in the French Alps ski resort of Megeve unveiled cutting-edge research on boosting human perception with information from the Internet, customised databases, or even biofeedback from our own brains.
The first devices for monitoring eye movement collected data from pilots in the 1940s to help improve cockpit design.
They have also been used to figure out the most effective ways to get people to see advertising.
More recently the systems have became interactive, making it possible to instantly provide computer-enhanced feedback to someone about what he or she is gazing at.
These newer technologies has been used mainly by the military, and to develop life-assistance tools for the severely disabled.
But a team of researchers from The Telecommunications Research Center in Vienna decided to take a state-of-the-art eye tracker designed for Web-use analysis out of the laboratory and onto the street.
They hooked up the device — with one camera trained on the user’s eye, and another on the scene being observed — to a smart phone with a built-in compass and global positioning system (GPS), to get a fix on the user’s orientation and location.
They added sensors that show whether one was looking up or down, and attached the whole kit — designed to navigate urban landscapes — to a bicycle helmet.
Closing one’s eyes for two seconds triggers a request for information about the building, bridge or monument in view.
A remotely-accessed computer scans geo-referenced databases on the Internet such as Google Earth, and then forwards the result back to the user’s cell phone, closing the loop.
"We wanted to make the system as non-intrusive as possible, so we used a text-to-speech engine. Data is received through an ear piece," explained Matthais Baldauf, one of the researchers.
Another "proof-of-concept" invention presented in Megeve — functional, but a long way from commercial development — adapted eye-tracking technology as an a memory aide.
Rather than training a camera on the eye, the "Aided Eye" system developed by a team from the University of Tokyo uses tiny infrared sensors.
While less accurate, additional data about eye movement and the frequence of blinking make it possible to pinpoint a face or a book cover within a field of vision.
And rather than matching the object to content on the Internet, the program devised by the scientists draws from a hand-tailored database of images and files, sometimes called a personal lifelog.
"For the experiment, we registered 100 images for the database," explained Yoshio Ishiguro from the Graduate School of Interdisciplinary Information Studies.
"When the eye trained on an object, it was recognized by the computer and a corresponding file was extracted," he said.
The system is light enough to be mounted onto a pair of reading glasses, but researchers have still not figured out how to provide the wearer feedback.
A tiny screen embedded inside the glasses or an audio system are both options, Ishiguro said.
New Devices Provide Information Through Vision
Posted on: Tuesday, 6 April 2010, 08:55 CDT
New technology unveiled during the first ever Augmented Human International Conference in Megeve, France on April 2 and 3 could allow you to simply blink or close your eyes in order to put a name to a familiar face in a crowd, find out information about a tourist attraction, or even find a nearby place to eat, according to a recent report by the AFP.
An article written on Monday by Marlowe Hood discusses some of the many augmented reality devices unveiled during the two-day summit in Megeve, France.
One device, developed by the Telecommunications Research Center in Vienna, uses a pair of cameras hooked up to a smartphone. One camera keeps track of the user’s line of vision, while the other observes his or her environment. Then, using a compass and GPS unit to determine the individual’s location, it can search for information regarding different landmarks and locations in the vicinity–all the user has to do is close his or her eyes for two seconds to obtain information through an earpiece.
Additionally, a University of Tokyo research team has developed an "Aided Eye" device that uses infrared sensors that keep track of an individual’s eye movement. When a person stares at an object for a certain amount of time, it searches a unique database of files and images and provides information intended to help jog the user’s memory.
"For the experiment, we registered 100 images for the database," Yoshio Ishiguro from the university’s Graduate School of Interdisciplinary Information Studies told Hood. "When the eye trained on an object, it was recognized by the computer and a corresponding file was extracted."
According to the event’s official website, the Augmented Human International Conference "focuses on scientific contributions towards augmenting humans capabilities through technology for increased well-being and enjoyable human experience."
Among the topics discussed were the use of augmentation for games, sports, health, and tourism, as well as wearable computing devices, bionics and biomechanics, exoskeletons, and brain wave/computer interfaces. Furthermore, the safety, security, ethical, legal, and privacy aspects of the science were discussed during the landmark technological conference.