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Added Reality

Tomas Westerholm. - Helsinki - autumn 1998, spring 1999
- Design Fiction


Future technology provides us with the potential for augmented vision when our virtual reality glasses receive visual information from the environment.

Added Reality becomes an efficient new tool both in everyday situations and in advanced problem solving.


Added Reality -

A way to combine both the real view and the computer generated visual information, which can be used, for example, to overlay a virtual 3D model of a building in its real site. Go to the real existing site, put the helmet or glasses on, and watch the simulated design in the real surroundings. The same can occur on a bigger scale: a normal city is full of visual information that could be erased from the physical city and put instead into the augmented format-thus making the real city more peaceful esthetically. At the same time, all that information-traffic signs and lights, advertisements, names, addresses, and so on-becomes more dynamic and in the long run cheaper. Add to that all kinds of exciting extra information in the augmented world, like maps, routes, timetables, real time public transport tracing, virtual guides, special effects... hmm, tourist info becomes like historical 3D movies happening in their real sites.

How could the rapidly expanding global digital information structure be seamlessly integrated to become an easy and intuitive piece of our everyday problem solving, communication and entertainment situations? Many features existing nowadays, like television, the video camera, the mobile phone, the internet, and electronic cash will merge together, and, with other technologies like neural networks, nano technology, and combined bio-mechanics, result in much more powerful solutions than today. The potential combinations are numerous. Technologies keep on developing.

Because of their digital nature it would now be possible to have sensors and microprocessors put seamlessly together in almost any technology. This is already happening in the area of home computers, for example, and will increasingly spread to other fields of life. The link between this merged technology and human beings will develop into an advanced system that is easier to learn and control, ie. more intuitive for us. As part of the system, portable or wearable interface (computer) will become as common and easy a daily phenomenon as wearing glasses or carrying a mobile phone is now. This solution will free us in many cases from the need to be physically present. It should also free us from dozens of everyday routines and provide higher level information and entertainment than technologies do today.

Simple Scenario

A tourist arrives in a new city. He goes around studying the historical sites. The glasses assist him first in navigating to the correct place and then by telling the story of the site and overlaying regenerated visual information of the past time. The tourist can also interact with the people in the historical movie.

The user can, for example, ask the system to choose three historical sites with connections to important political events from the 18th century. He would like to study each site for one hour. The system will guide him to these actual places and provide the requested information.

The first site is an old parliament house where a revolution took place at the beginning of the 18th century. The virtual guide briefly explains the story and then shows an overlayed 3D video of the action. The virtual models of the key persons then appear to be interviewed. They have been programmed to react and comment on the questions as we know and assume now.

The ruins of a church is the second site. The guide tells the story while the regenerated 3D model of the church shows how it used to look before the war. The short drama between the key persons is viewed without the model of the church so that the user can see all the virtual persons at the same time moving on different floors and locations of the destroyed church and acting according to the old legend of this site.

The third site is a market place. Because of the dense crowd the system suggests that the user climb to the opposite tower to view the story. The user goes to the tower and the system starts a simulation game in which the user has take control of the historical situation. The simulation ends. The virtual key persons appear to discuss the user's choices during the game. Later the system shows what actually happened.

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system

statement

Simply the fact that our physical surroundings seem to be 3-dimensional speaks for the need of collecting, organizing and manipulating the data in 3D. The increasing use of 3D cad and other 3D applications (such as industrial robots, medical devices, visual effects and video games) automatically creates the need for more efficient tools.


users?

The potential users are many. Though in the first, expensive, stages of the technology it may be restricted to limited professionals, it would later spread to various areas of everyday life. The specific needs for this technology involve the needs of collecting, organizing and manipulating the data in a visual 3D format. In the special case of the 3D modelling cad application, the need is restricted more to a specific problem of controlling the visual and spatial qualities of the design. In that case the structural model of the real physical structure of the design could be a specific quality of the data.

The specific user - for example, an architect - can be defined by his/her need to be able to "see" the proposed design beforehand as it will finally appear. Moreover he/she should be able to easily change all possible parameters in the design and thus be able to try out "all" possible configurations, resulting in the most suitable one. Because of the many parameters, even abstract ones, involved in that kind of design problem it has always been a tedious process to go through the variations. The change to a digital format has provided the whole design process with new opportunities. As having specific information on users and their common problems is crucial, the specific group of architects is chosen here because of a personal involvement in that area, though of course the technology can be applied to other issues of problem-solving and communication.

abc /nov 2000