Image: Signal Kinetics, Jimmy Day
Researchers have equipped the AR headset HoloLens 2 with a sort of X-ray vision. Many applications are possible.
At Superman’s beginnings in the 1930s, hardly anyone believed that the Man of Steel’s X-ray vision would one day become reality.
Even today, it sounds like fiction. The School of Architecture and Planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has now developed a variation on AR called X-AR, a Hololens 2 modification that lets users “see” prepared objects outside their line of sight.
How X-AR works
X-AR uses a combination of new antenna design, wireless signal processing algorithms, and an artificial intelligence-based fusion of various sensors.
At the heart of the X-AR technology is a novel, flexible broadband antenna that researchers mounted on a Microsoft Hololens 2. This, in combination with an AR-based SAR localization algorithm, enables the headset to receive signals from RFID tags.
Users can attach these individually to products. Items such as clothing, consumer products, and inventory objects are often equipped with them anyway.
X-AR users select the item they want to find from a menu. The headset then transmits a signal that pings the RFID tags in the area. They then send back their individual ID. According to the research team, this also works when they are hidden in boxes or behind other objects.
A 3D representation of the environment is created by X-AR. When they move, the AR headset is located and tracked in this environment. The position is then combined with all RF measurements to track the RFID tag being searched for in relation to the position of the X-AR headset. When a hit is made, the corresponding item is displayed in the user’s field of view as an augmented reality overlay.
Areas of application for X-AR
Employees in warehouses could use the technology for efficient navigation. This could save time in processes such as inventory replenishment and packing of goods. In the retail sector, X-AR could help sales staff sort products or find misplaced items.
Similar technology could also be of interest in the private sector under certain circumstances. Who wouldn’t want to be able to immediately locate certain objects in moving boxes?
However, objects would have to be equipped with an RFID tag. And, of course, none of the current AR headsets are worthwhile for this – they still have to become much lighter and suitable for everyday use. In the next few years, Meta plans to bring powerful AR headsets to market that could make such or similar applications possible.
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