Smart watch gets AR version

smart watch, AR

A recent development involving the University of Hasselt combines a smart wristwatch with a transparent screen that displays augmented reality (AR). Is this an alternative to smart glasses?

Integrating augmented reality into everyday reality is not easy, and digitally extending actuality via portable technology (wearables) without interfering with the real world image is incredibly difficult to do - something Google Glass has proved in the meantime. A possible alternative will soon be making its appearanceWatchTru.

The WatchThru concept has been developed by a team of researchers at the University of Bremen, Google and the University of Hasselt in Belgium and provides a different approach to AR with an interesting extension to the traditional, commercially available smartwatches: it has a second transparent screen for AR interaction.

3D screen and sensors

In dealing with limited visual and interactive spaces, WatchThru has extended the smartwatch with 3D capability by way of an additional transparent screen worn around the wrist. This makes innovative interactions possible that support and extend the rapidly recorded information on the smartwatch itself. Three new interactive technologies are available:  'Pop-up Visuals', 'Second Perspective' and 'Peek-through'.

There are currently two prototypes: a simple version with Android Wear and additional screen, and a more powerful model incorporating tracking sensors. The team wants to fit a hinged screen to the next models that can be folded down over the main screen when not in use.

Use

The researchers have come up with a couple of interesting uses for the extra screen. The glasses can display a direction indicator to help you navigate through a building, while a traditional map is displayed on the other screen. A more complex version uses external tracking cameras and sensors for updating the current location and it places an extra layer over the objects in the actual world. This allows the watch to indicate nearby outlets or overlay links on a printed circuit board, although it is still a few years away from practical implementation.

People who like the concept still have to be patient before the AR smartwatch actually appears in the shops, nonetheless the concept offers an interesting perspective on how augmented reality can work on a smartwatch.

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