Science fiction has brought some fantastic ideas to the world, with humans being captivated by technologies that seem impossible, such as the Star Trek holodeck. But some of these technologies, which may seem extravagant and can only be achieved in the distant future, become part of our daily lives thanks to innovators in science and technology.
One of these technologies is augmented reality (RA). RA is not new; in fact, it first appeared in the 1960s. However, its application and commercial use have only been explored more fully.
In the early 2010s, SRI International’s Computer Vision Technologies Laboratory began exploring possible applications of RA binoculars. In 2013, this team shared their research at a conference of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) on mixed and augmented reality and the IEEE publication Computer visualization and graphics transactions. The team received the award for best role for this work.
SRI has a long history in developing cutting-edge technology. Even before AR binoculars, SRI was a veteran of augmented reality, having developed the prototype system to display AR-based ads on live television for baseball games, which led to the “ yellow line from top to bottom ”that was used in football television broadcasts. The SRI team acknowledged that there was a compelling reason to add RA capability to the binoculars, that this device would be “useful for enhancing the experience of large-scale augmented reality scenarios outdoors, as distant magnifications seem too small for the unaided eyeThe team also realized that AR binoculars should be much easier to use than traditional AR headphones and worked to ensure the binoculars did not require bulky hardware or special glasses.
The original use case for RA binoculars was to meet the needs of military training and disaster relief. However, the team also envisioned applications in consumer situations such as bird watching and sports. One of the valuable features of RA is that tags and information tags can be inserted into the user’s display, and this information can also be shared with others. However, adding augmented reality to handheld binoculars was no easy task. The development of portable AR binoculars required SRI to meet challenges such as the continuous movement of the hand and body to create a “precise insertion without fluctuations and without derivations”From RA images in sight. The binoculars also had to be compact and light enough to be able to be used normally.
The uniqueness of the design of SRI’s AR binoculars was to ensure that the magnification, in the form of inserted objects, appeared stable on the screen. Any fluctuation or drift, as binoculars were normally used, would impair the viewer’s experience and reduce the effectiveness of the magnification. AR binoculars were built from several components:
- Wide field of view (FoV) lens: is used for context and to recover the location and 3D orientation of binoculars
- Narrow FoV narrow: is used to increase and improve tracking accuracy
- Inertial unit of measurement (IMU): a microelectromechanical system (MEM) that tracks angular velocity and acceleration
- Global Positioning System (GPS): a satellite-based navigation and location system for location estimation
- Magnetometer: it measures the Earth’s magnetic field and is used for measurements related to orientation estimation
- Barometric pressure sensor: measures atmospheric pressure and is used for measurements related to altitude estimation
Two cameras were able to sit in the bay from the lens of the binoculars. The design team created a navigation algorithm that combined the data from the cameras and sensors. The team used a visual mechanism for matching milestones and panorama to allow for quick correction of orientation and minimize drift. The IMU and GPS provided a real-time position estimate without fluctuations to provide an accurate magnification.
These RA binoculars could also share data. For example, the user could tag and tag objects of interest in the RA view and share this information with other RA devices.
The team demonstrated the usefulness of RA binoculars during multiple live simulated advanced military observer training exercises. The show combined fixed-wing rotary-wing aircraft, ground vehicles and weapons effects with real-world scenes.
RA can now be found in many places, from furniture store apps that display catalog items within a room to medical apps. SRI continues to work on military, industrial, educational, and business applications for AR, such as military tactical defense and training, AR for maintenance and repair, construction assistants, training for dyslexia, and more. SRI continues to drive the technology needed to make AR a reality.