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Digital projectors merge real and virtual worlds

Tuesday, July 26, 2011 - 02:29

July 26 - Move over virtual reality, researchers at Rensselear Polytechnic Institute are taking spatially augmented reality to the next level with ''dynamic projection surfaces.'' The system moves projected images out into the real world, enabling multiple users to interact with their physical and virtual environments simultaneously. Sharon Reich reports.

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STORY: Move any of these surfaces and it becomes clear that what you're seeing is a projected image overlaid onto a real life object. It's called spatially augmented reality and it's the latest technology being used by researchers at Rensselear Polytechnic Institute to develop video games, learning tools and even disaster response systems. Using simple cameras, and multiple projectors and laser pointers, Barbara Cutler has developed a dynamic projection system that alters the appearance of physical objects and allows multiple users to simultaneously move the projected imagery to help make sense of complex data sets. (SOUNDBITE) (English) BARBARA CUTLER, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF COMPUTER SCIENCE AT RENSSELEAR POLYTECHNIC INSTITUTE, SAYING: "You can step into an environment where all the surfaces in the room are available to be projected on. We can put data on those surfaces. You can move those surfaces around and wherever that surface lands you can put data on that surface. This can be used for architectural visualization, those surfaces can form the walls of your room, it can be used for medical visualization - we can put data on that surface and as you pull that surface around you'll see different information being displayed and then we can also start to interact with the display on the surface. While other systems have used projections and movie screen like surfaces to create alternative visual scenes, Cutler says these environments are static, with a single projector pointing at a fixed object. Cutler is already using the system in some of her classes and says it changes the pace of lessons and empowers students to ask more questions. The system was initially designed with architectural exercises in mind, creating full size mock up spaces where an architect and client could visually see how light patterns would flow inside of a new building. Now Cutler is taking the concept further by collaborating with civil engineers on a new project that would use dynamically projected surfaces to help cope with disasters such as a levee breach. (SOUNDBITE) (English) BARBARA CUTLER, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF COMPUTER SCIENCE AT RENSSELEAR POLYTECHNIC INSTITUTE, SAYING: "You have a bunch of complex systems say in New York or North Carolina and different levels of expertise about the water, the sewer, the electrical grid and some disaster has taken out that system. In order to bring things back together again you are going to need to have experts from different fields come together. And they are not used to working together and may not be familiar with each other's visualizations or the networks. And we'd like to visualize these things on top of each other so that we can help them do the best planning about what system should be repaired." The project is still in development but Cutler's simple hardware and complex software, could soon bring augmented reality systems into the mainstream. Sharon Reich, Reuters.

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Digital projectors merge real and virtual worlds

Tuesday, July 26, 2011 - 02:29

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