LuminAR bulb lights path to augmented reality (w/ video)

Dec 10, 2012 by report

(—Are we moving closer to a computer age where "touchscreen" is in the room, but it is the counter, desktop, wall, our new digital work areas? Are we moving into a new form factor called Anywhere? Do we understand how locked up we are in on-screen prisons, and that options will come? The drive for options is strong at the MIT Media Lab, where its Fluid Interfaces Group has been working on some AR options, the "Augmented Product Counter" and the "LuminAR." The latter is a bulb that makes any surface a touchscreen. You can even use it to replace the bulb in a desk lamp with the MIT group's "bulb" to project images onto a surface. The LuminAR bulb is small enough to fit a standard light fixture.

The LuminAR team, Natan Linder, Pattie Maes and Rony Kubat, described what they have done as redefining the traditional and desk lamp as a new category of "robotic, devices." This will be one of the new looks in AR interfaces.

The LuminAR lamp system looks similar to a conventional desk lamp, but its arm is a robotic arm with four . The arm terminates in a lampshade with Edison socket. Each DOF has a motor, positional and torque sensors, motor control and power circuitry. The arm is designed to interface with the LuminAR bulb. The "bulb," which fits into a lightbulb socket, combines a Pico-projector, camera, and wireless computer and can make any surface interactive. The team uses the special spelling "LuminAR" to suggest its place in the group's other Augmented Reality initiatives.

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"The Fluid Interfaces research group is radically rethinking the ways we interact with digital information and services," says the MIT site. Their mission is to investigate ways to augment everyday objects and spaces around people, making those objects and spaces responsive to users' actions.

Their "Augmented Product Counter" is based on LuminAR technology, which, in a retail store setting, can transform any standard product counter into a digital entity where the countertop will display the digital information related to the physical product. Potential scenarios include shoppers using the counters to learn more about the products as well as web access to reviews and price comparisons.

Augmented Product Counter

The LuminAR bulb can be a standalone unit. Users can interact with its projection through hand gestures for zoom, position control, and content manipulation. If used with the LuminAR lamp it takes on more functionality, with the articulated enabling a user to move projected images around.

LuminAR was showcased earlier this year at an ACM conference. "I'm really excited by the way this would be used by engineers and designers," said Linder. Applications, aside from retail, could lie in numerous professional fields where people need to work with paper and other physical tools alongside their computers. The project is a re-think of traditional lighting objects, giving them new power as interfaces.

In a November Technology Review, the LuminAR team was reported to be finessing the bulb-only version. Linder said its design cuts costs and complexity, and makes the technology easier to adopt.

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User comments : 3

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3 / 5 (4) Dec 10, 2012
Jesus. So we're not just forcing modrn LED and fluorescent lights into the antiquate edison screw format, but we're also going to force future computer displays to follow this format as well?
Buy a new lamp you jerks.
2.3 / 5 (3) Dec 10, 2012
Thrills. Now we can have SPAM ads projected on every surface in our environment. Enough that I have to wait for all the ads to load on the page before I can read my email or a news article. When will they learn that they cannot sell me anything by annoying the **** out of me? I keep a list of companies I will not do business with because of their obnoxious, intrusive advertising methods.
not rated yet Dec 10, 2012
I, too, am inclined to wax pessimistic as to the implied user interface. It's awful. Just reaching to the surface to activate a button results in distorting the image as the light plays over a hand. Ugh.

I'll place my hopes on a different set of technologies: virtual reality glasses/ear phones (eventually, perhaps, contact lenses) and an environment saturated by sensors, networks and computational devices which can interact with those glasses.

That tech could go in very powerful directions.

This light-bulb approach is just a clumsy way to tie down the user interface to a particular location. It's obsolete before it even gets out of the starting gate.

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