Notes from the AR Dinner at GDC09

I had a wonderful dinner the other night with a bunch of game developers who are interested in Augmented Reality. In attendance were Stefan Misslinger and Noora Guldemond from MetaIO, Mitch Ferguson from Carbine, John Walker, Cory Bloyd, and Ron Haidenger and Paul Travers from Vuzix. It was great to spend the evening talking to other people who are as interested in AR as I am.

Noora from MetaIO talked a bit about how their LEGO kiosks have been received by end users. At first they don’t get it because they’re looking at the box in their hand. Once they notice the screen they are amazed and start running around the store trying out other boxes. There is a kiosk installed at a LEGO store in San Mateo. I’m not sure if the store in Seattle has one or not, so I may try to go and take a look over the weekend.

John Walker spent quite a bit of time talking about about the AR applications he has worked on for the Department of Defense. Even though I was sitting directly across from him, I unfortunately couldn’t hear a word he was saying. Hopefully I can catch up with John later in the week and get the scoop. (Since I’m posting this on Sunday, I can say that didn’t happen.)

I spent the night peppering Paul Travers from Vuzix with questions about the Wrap 920AV glasses and other things they are working on. This is a bunch of the stuff I was intending to ask when I get a chance to go by their booth, but I got that out of the way early. Here are the answers to those questions:

  • They don’t know exactly what the price will be, but they are expecting it to be less than $500.
  • Paul is very confident that the Wrap glasses will ship this year
  • The displays are 800×600 in these glasses. That’s a step up from the 640×480 resolution that their other glasses use.
  • The two displays are independantly controllable through a variety of methods, but if your software can handle it, you can provide 60Hz to each eye.
  • The IMU for the wrap will include accelerometers, gyros, and magnetic sensors, and will provide yaw, pitch, and roll to the software at a very high rate.
  • When they are in visual pass-through mode the Wraps will blend a translucent scene over the world. In this mode the brighter a pixel is the more visible it will be to the user. That makes black the transparent color and white the “visible as it gets” color.
  • Paul was coy about exactly what the specs on the camera will be. I think they aren’t 100% settled yet. He was very aware of the issues with frame rate on USB cameras, though, so hopefully they will figure out a way to provide a reasonable frame rate (or at least crisp frames.)

It turns out that as part of their research into how to get the IMU working they have been with the same SparkFun 6DOF IMU that I have. They have also had trouble with the magnetic sensors. The voltage range provided by the sensors is far too small and there is no amplification between the sensors and the microcontroller. The result of all this is that the noise in the system tends to swamp the actual readings. That sound like exactly the problem I have run into.

I left dinner very excited about the next year of Augmented Reality. In six months or so I will be able to buy a pair of glasses (with IMU) for less than $500 that will show visuals over the world. Right now the other options in this space cost $1700 for the IMU and $30,000 for the glasses. When the price on a piece of technology drops to 1/60th of what it used to be it unlocks a huge potential for exciting new applications. I can’t wait!


4 Responses to “Notes from the AR Dinner at GDC09”

  1. Noah Zerkin thought on :

    Gyros? Really? So a real full 6-DOF IMU? With Kalman Filtering, maybe? :-D SWEET!!!

  2. Joe said on :

    That’s what I understood from talking to them. We didn’t talk about kalman filters specifically, but that’s pretty much the way you convert accelerometer and gyro data to pitch and roll, so that is likely what they will use.

  3. Darkflame replied on :

    I been extremely interested in the Wrap920 glass’s and this is the first (semi) solid details I have come across.
    Thanks a heck of a lot!
    In fact, I’ll post this link to the Augmented Reality Games facebook group (

    Must say I’m a little disapointed by the translucent visual pass though discription.
    I know its the first of its kinda, but the inability to have any sort of contrast is a little bit crippling.
    I’m supprised they couldnt just add a normal LCD layer behind the (TOLED?) screens for contrast.

  4. Alex Kasper said on :

    Cool info! I’m very interested in these glasses as well.

    Just a suggestion: maybe try out particle filters instead of Kalman filters. They are THE hip thing in robotics these days ;)

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