Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Augmented Reality

I am currently in IIIT-Hyderabad immersed in my current project on augmented reality.I was introduced to it by a professor here a few months ago. For those of you who haven't heard of augmented reality, it is an upcoming field that will soon play a huge part in revolutionizing human-computer interaction. Augmented-Reality, as the term suggests, means to add virtual elements to a real environment. In other words it can be described as a merger of reality and synthesized virtual realms. The results are truly a feast for the eyes! For instance in the picture show here, the two people who are viewing through their head mounted displays, fed by head mounted cameras can see the virtual city placed on a real table! The city is rendered by the program and placed in the correct position and in the right orientation as per certain calculations which I will describe in detail further ahead.

Augmented reality can be seen as a progeny of existing computer vision concepts. The basic principle is simple:
  • Firstly it is assumed that the camera sees what the user sees, which is almost true given its close proximity to the user's eye and after methodically eliminating radial and axial distortions.
  • Since we wish to place our virtual objects in the scene and make it look convincingly real, we need to know the mapping from the scene to the image plane of the camera. To make it even simpler - The virtual objects need to be aligned with the perspective of the scene. For example, a user looking at a real teapot and a virtual teapot, placed at the same distance from the camera should be convinced that the scene is real. The virtual teapot should not look "out of place" in the scene. There are several novel methods that can be used to achieve this which I will go through in much more detail as I describe my project ahead.
  • The scene should be rendered efficiently. Since the frame rate of the video should be maintained at a reasonable and constant value, we need to finish our frame by frame processing quickly and efficiently.
Now my project here in IIIT - Hyderabad is to find ways to add human interaction into this. So I set out to make a demo, a game rather. My game is quite simple. There is a plane that a user will be holding in front of a camera (like a sheet of paper) . A virtual maze will be created on this plane along with a virtual ball. The objective of this game is that the user should guide the ball through the maze by tilting the plane in his hand. Remember that the ball should be under the influence of gravity to make this possible! :)

It has been almost 2 months since I have been brooding on this project and now I have a working prototype. I now have a 4 sided boundary region in which the user can play with his ball, collision, gravity and a fully functional force accumulator model included. I regret not blogging my progress all this while but now I have some catching up to do. I will devote any free time I have to enumerate the progress that I made over the past 2 months and other proceedings in my project. I will soon upload my game so that you can play it too!

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