Wearable Tech World Feature Article
February 26, 2013

Augmented Reality Augments the Reality of Wearable Computers

The idea of augmented reality gives a lot of tech users pause these days. Being able to look at something and get information about that is the kind of thing that science fiction used to be made of until, as is so often the case, it became science fact. But augmented reality is being used to put a little extra juice in a whole different technology: wearable computers. A prototype currently being shown at the Mobile World Congress (News - Alert) (MWC) 2013 event is showing, quite clearly, just how augmented reality can improve on wearable computing.

The prototype in question, produced by the R&D department at Japanese app development house Brilliantservice, packs many of the standards that might be expected of a wearable computer system. It's got its own operating system—dubbed the Viking, oddly enough—and a pair of see-through displays showing in 720p resolution. There's a depth perception camera mounted just over the bridge of the nose that's geared toward providing what may be the most impressive aspect of the Brilliantservice prototype: gesture controls.

Since the Viking OS is written in Objective C, it depends heavily on gesture controls to issue commands to the wearable computer. With the gesture controls in place, users could open apps, match names to faces just by looking at the people in question, and even use a drawing program to create a painting visible only to the wearable computer's wearer.

Early word from those who've tried the prototype suggests that it will even work with prescription glasses, though the experience is, as yet, a little less than optimal since the images were a bit too much on the translucent side to work well with glasses. However, the graphics themselves were reportedly sufficiently unobtrusive that it would be easy enough to walk around all day wearing the glasses without it getting in the way to too great an extent.

As for content, there wasn't too much in that particular field as yet owing largely to the prototypical nature of the system itself. But word was that there was a clock on hand, as well as a phone dialer and a map graphic with non-working buttons along with the drawing app and some facial recognition tools.

Perhaps most exciting of all is that this particular headset is the work of mostly just one person, who's been working on it since “last summer,” which puts this somewhere in the neighborhood of between seven and nine months worth of work. The lone Brilliantservice engineer responsible for this, Johannes Lundberg, said he'd like to find a partner to work on this with him, and when he does, he'll be able to add in some extra features like voice recognition systems and a Bluetooth controller for those times when users can't get their hands in front of their faces to work the motion controls. A second non-working model was also on hand that looked more like a set of sunglasses than anything else.

This, needless to say, represents a significant opportunity for development. This is one guy working for a little under a year, but he's still managed to put up a piece of hardware so impressive that it almost makes Google's (News - Alert) nearly finished model look like a toy by comparison. With some development in there, this company in Japan might well manage to upstage Google and make a wearable computer that major companies would die to have in their arsenal. The ultimate release of Brilliantservice's model remains to be seen, but it should truly be something to see—and wear—when it's done.

Edited by Rachel Ramsey

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