One of the Cooler Mobile Gadgets at TED: Wear Ur World with Sixth Sense

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Feb 11, 2009

One of the more interesting mobile apps that I saw at TED, a prestigious tech and design conference in California, projects information from the phone onto any surface -- augmenting information from the web with real life and physical spaces.

The prototype -- dubbed Sixth Sense -- showcased at TED includes a webcam and a battery-powered projector, a small mirror and an internet-enabled mobile phone.  The device hangs around the wearer's neck and allows her to summon data and information from the Web on any surface. 

Pattie Maes of the lab's Fluid Interfaces group said in her presentation that she and her students are seeking a "new digital "sixth sense" for humans.  In the short clips below, Maes' student Pranav Mistry who developed the device, showcases the potential for social interaction and impact. 

For example, the device can use infrared to communicate with supermarket products to give you more information. The infrared ring on the device grows red or green to tell a consumer more about whether a paper towel roll, for example, has recycled material or  whatever other criteria are programmed into the system.

Or imagine reading a newspaper with content from the web - video, for example, augmenting the reading experience. 

"We wanted to make information more useful to people in real time with minimal effort in a way that doesn't require any behavior changes," Maes said in an interview with WIRED Magazine recently. 

Mistry writes on his site:

For several years now, our research group has been intrigued by the question of whether we could develop a "sixth sense", i.e. a way of perceiving relevant meta information about whatever we are facing in a seamless, non disruptive way? In theory we have anywhere and anytime access to all information online through our cell phones, but in practice that is not really the case. We do not interrupt a conversation with a stranger to Google them. When shopping for paper towels in the super market, we do not get out our cellphone, start a browser and look up some websites to find out which of the many brands is the most ecologically responsible choice. A true sixth sense device would not require any interruption of what we are doing and would not require that we change any of our behavior in order to access information relevant to what we are doing. Our latest invention and device that comes closest to providing a true "sixth sense" for relevant meta information consists of a camera and tiny projector that are worn around the neck. The projector projects information onto whatever surface is in front of the user, while the camera interprets the scene in front of the user including recognizing the user's hand positions and gestures. As a result, the wearer can see information projected onto a surface and interact with the information using natural gestures.

Here are two videos that vividly demonstrate the potential of the device.  And, as it turns out,  this kind of mobile-enabled augmented reality may not be that futuristic: Mobile phone manufacturers are alraedy making cellphone devices with projectors, making the device even simpler to construct.  We are excited to see what is coming out of the lab!

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