MIT develops an even more augmented reality device

On Wednesday at the Technology Entertainment and Design Conference, Dr. Pattie Maes, founder and director of the Fluid interfaces group at MIT presented a smart device with ordinary parts that can turn any surface into a touchscreen.

Using a webcam, battery-powered projector, and mobile phone, the device acquits itself like a portable Microsoft Surface display built from $300 worth of consumer-grade hardware. The interface is generated by the phone which is in turn projected onto nearly any surface, and the camera is used to recognize gestures that interact with that projection.

As is typical with most TED talks, the subject matter is still largely conceptual. "You can use any surface, including your hand if nothing else is available, and interact with the data," said Maes. One of the featured applications projects a watch onto the wrist of the wearer, and another allows the user to snap a photo simply by creating a frame with his fingers.

Like the rudimentary "augmented reality" applications available on certain smartphones, MIT's device can use its camera to process its surroundings, and project relevant data onto surfaces it has analyzed. Comparison shopping in stores, for example, could be a live visual experience, where price listings are projected directly onto the merchandise the user is handling.

As it is now, the device must be worn around the neck, and looks to be about a foot long from top to bottom. But with devices like the Samsung Show already on the way, projector phones are very close to providing everything MIT's Media Lab would need in a single package.

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