OCT 21, 2019 9:55 PM PDT

Augmented Reality System Gives Smartphone Users an Interactive Experience

WRITTEN BY: Nouran Amin

Researchers have developed a software system that converts cell phones into augmented reality (AR) portals that allows users to place virtual building blocks into real-world backdrops. The systems development stems from a small infrared sensor mounted on the back of a phone. Referred to as ‘Portal-ble’, the AR platform can someday serve as a crucial tool for artists, designers and game developers.

A new augmented reality platform gives smartphone users the capacity to use their hands to manipulate virtual objects on real backgrounds. Credit: Huang Lab / Brown University

"AR is going to be a great new mode of interaction," said Jeff Huang, an assistant professor of computer science at Brown who developed the system with his students. "We wanted to make something that made AR portable so that people could use anywhere without any bulky headsets. We also wanted people to be able to interact with the virtual world in a natural way using their hands."

Current AR apps that place virtual objects into real-world scenes require the users to swipe on the screen.

"Swiping just wasn't a satisfying way of interacting," Huang said. "In the real world, we interact with objects with our hands. We turn doorknobs, pick things up and throw things. So we thought manipulating virtual objects by hand would be much more powerful than swiping. That's what's different about Portal-ble."

The main purpose of Portal-ble is to produce the appropriate resources and feedback materials necessary to allow users to interact with virtual objects.

"It turns out that picking up a virtual object is really hard if you try to apply real-world physics," Huang said. "People try to grab in the wrong place, or they put their fingers through the objects. So we had to observe how people tried to interact with these objects and then make our system able accommodate those tendencies."

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"It's a little like what happens when people draw lines in Photoshop," Huang said. "The lines people draw are never perfect, but the program can smooth them out and make them perfectly straight. Those were the kinds of accommodations we were trying to make with these virtual objects."

Source: Brown University

About the Author
  • Nouran is a scientist, educator, and life-long learner with a passion for making science more communicable. When not busy in the lab isolating blood macrophages, she enjoys writing on various STEM topics.
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