Canon readies augmented reality platform for Japan launch

Canon said Monday it will launch a new augmented-reality platform that uses head-mounted displays to realistically project virtual images onto real backgrounds.

The Japanese manufacturer, known mainly for its cameras and copymachines, said the platform will allow users to view 3D objects fromdifferent angles by simply walking around them. Canon says itstechnology differs from other augmented-reality solutionsbecausevirtual images can be accurately viewed from any angle.

The system employs visual markers placed in the real world to provideorientation. The markers are identified using Canon’s speciallydesigned head-mounted displays, which have one small digital cameranext to each eye. The cameras provide input into the system software,which calculates how users should see virtual items and generatesimages correspondingly.

The virtual images are shown to users using two tiny display panelsthat sit just above the eyes. The images from the display panels arecarefully aligned with user’s point of view, to keep the virtual worldaligned with the real one.

This camera-display combination allows the platform to display virtualitems and shapes as though they are being viewed at the correct sizeand angle, even as users change position.

The company says it will begin sales of the platform from late June inJapan, and that Canon’s foreign marketing subsidiaries may sell itabroad as well in the future. Canon will initially target themanufacturing industry, pitching the system as a way to look at newproducts before they are manufactured or test proposed factory layouts.It is also considering selling the system to companies that reform theinteriors of buildings or for use in simulating surgical procedures.

The system runs on Windows 7 and Windows XP, andrequires the use ofits camera-equipped head-mounted displays and markers.

Canon said it will display the system at the 3D and Virtual RealityExpo to be held in Tokyo later this week.

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