Augmented reality navigation support

One of the side projects I worked on while developing the application for pedestrian navigation support was another application for navigation, but more focused on technology. Because there was a lot of interesting hardware available (electronic compasses, GPS units, head mounted displays), I worked on an augmented reality application that would project information on top of world objects. These days there are applications for iPhone and Android phones that do exactly this, but at the point I started to experiment with this technology, the first Android phone was not released yet, and iPhones did not contain a compass yet, so there was no (at least no widely available) commercial product that could do this yet.

The basic application indicated important landmarks and map, which were transparent and visible on top of world view, as user would look through the head mounted display. The orientation of the projections was following the user’s movement of the head, including tilt and roll; these were accounted for by attaching (read: duct-taping) accelerometers and electronic compass to the head mounted display. Interacting with the application was quite easy; if the user looked at a marked landmark, it would be highlighted. If a button was pressed subsequently, the application would provide additional information and description about the landmark.

The application was presented on an event that one of the sponsors of the project organized, and many people found it quite interesting. Later, I worked on extension of the interface, modeling and incorporating 3D wireframes of all buildings in the neighborhood of my office, to see whether the application could literally highlight a building when the user looks at it through the head mounted display. I never fully finished it though, because I moved to other projects. Also, as I mentioned before, by end of 2008, commercial applications started to appear that could do most of the things that I was experimenting with.

This side-project allowed me to play with combining different technologies and just see what you can do with it. It was especially interesting to create an application that reacts to head movements and personal position and allow user to interact in that way. I was able to use a lot of knowledge I gathered about GPS and 3D map generation in the other project about navigation, so besides being fun, it was also a very informative experience.

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