Vuzix is probably best known for its not-exactly-fashion-forward personal video glasses, which enable a user to take in video content from something like an iPod or PC using LCD screens mounted in a pair of glasses: the result is like the equivalent of watching a screen more than 60-inches across, and it’s private: even the person in the airplane seat next to you can’t tell you’re indulging your yen for ancient episodes of The Beverly Hillbillies. At this year’s Game Developer’s Conference, Vuzix introduced products it thinks will take its personal video products to the next level: the CamAR and PhasAR accessories add “augmented reality” capabilities to the company’s iWear AV920.
The AV920 normally blocks users’ ability to see the environment around them. The CamAR accessory, however, adds a 1,280 by 1,024-pixel camera to the equation: it mounts on the front of the camera and enables the user to “see” what’s in front of them as a digital image in the iWear device. But that’s not the end of it—after all, if a user wants to see reality, they can just take off the glasses. The camera also enables a PC to overlay virtual images on the real life image in front of the user, “augmenting” reality. The PhasAR accessor is a wireless controller with two buttons, and it enables users to interact with virtual objects in the display across six degrees of freedom.
“This capability, known as Augmented Reality (AR), will open up new applications in the gaming, education and business sectors,” said Vuzix CEO, Paul Travers, in a statement. “The applications for gaming and education will range from books that come alive to interactive worlds with 3-D characters that materialize right before your eyes.”
Vuzix hasn’t outlined any plans for offering the CamAR and PhasAR systems commercially…and just because the technology exists doesn’t mean application and content developers will embrace it. Still, Vuzix asks us to imaging a world where every day objects and events can be beefed up with virtual imagery that we can interact with. Vuzix demonstrated a simple shooting game, a virtual dragon attacking a Lego castle (complete with a virtual knight defending it), and dropped a virtual skyscraper onto a flat surface…then destroyed it with a UFO. Augmented reality also has many applications outside of entertainment: think GPS navigation, shopping, customer service, and education.