Thursday, May 17, 2012

3D without the glasses

Let’s get back to the Kinect. In a blog article titled “Playing in a virtual sandbox”, Vision Systems Design editor Andy Wilson describes an augmented reality system based around a Kinect. Most augmented reality systems that I’ve seen seem to involve wearing fancy glasses, especially when 3D is involved. This one doesn’t.

Now much as I enjoy Andy’s writing, his title and description really don’t do justice to the coolness of this idea. To begin with, there’s nothing virtual about the sandbox. It’s 100% real, and is used a surface that can be sculpted as needed. A digital projector paints lines, colors, shapes etc onto the surface.

You’ve seen systems that paint structured light patterns onto surfaces, thereby deducing the contours, but this is different. The Kinect maps the surface in of the sand in 3D, and software then decides what to project onto the sand, based upon the local height.

In the detailed description that Andy links to, (follow my link to his page, and from there to the UC Davis site – I don’t want to divert his page views,) the system is being used to illustrate topography. Heap the sand up to form a hill and a lake appears at its base. Contour lines are also projected, illustrating lines of equal height.

The UV Davis site has a couple of movies that illustrate the interactive, real-time nature of the mapping and projection. Take a look because they just hint at the potential of this idea. I already have some thoughts about how this could be commercialized, but if you have ideas please feel free to share them.

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