This story is from the category Business
Date posted: 11/08/2004
RFID tags, all the rage it seems these days. However, they could be more than they seem to be. They could in fact be the key to the sensor network necessary for augmented reality to truly come to be.
Researchers from Mitsubishi Electric Research Labs have brought dynamic, computer-generated labels into the physical world with a combination of radio frequency identification (RFID) tags and portable projectors.
Exactly like in the low-budget film "Virtual nightmare" in which everything is produced cheaply, but with a 'tag' that identifies it to the system as whatever - the system overlays that image on it. If the box says its actually a briefcase, that is what displays. If a box is an alarm clock, ikewise. Houses, cars, clothes, all are produced from generic objects in the film.
The real life system is a lot simpler, but works in the exact same way. Mitsubishi Electric Research Labs' RFID tags affix to any object, and use a system they have termed Radio Frequency Identity and Geometry (RFIG) which involves a hand-held, or head-mounted projector which shines onto the tags, projecting dynamic images onto objects based on which RFID they are marked with.
The tags themselves are photosensitive, and identify themselves to the projector via two-way communication when the light is played over them.
The projector beams a sequence of about 20 images of horizontal or vertical bars of varying density, which form unique codes indicating horizontal and vertical coordinates. Each tag records the code, then transmits its identity plus the code back to the radio frequency reader attached to the projector.. This allows the reader to determine the precise location of each tag in its range.
The projector's next output signal marks the tags for the user, highlighting them in different colours and / or patterns to allow them to see at a glance, what a box actually contains. The tags and the area arond them glows brightly, all the rest is dark.
If several RFID tags are put on the same object, the projector is able to use them to build out an outline of the object, and even detect if it has been shifted, or moved.
On top of that, the projector has a position tracking system for its own location and orientation at any given time, and when networked, one user can use the projecttor to find and id a tag, then use a computer interface to leave a message on it that then pops up when another user scans the tag.
The system is still in development, but is practical right now, if somewhat too expensive for most commercial applications. The researchers expect the system should be commercially viable within two to three years.
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