Microsoft envisions a future in which every home is a sports bar, filled with countless screens, always sitting in the ready to display information. But who wants to live in a world filled with TVs?
Now, a new project, led by researcher Renato F. Salas-Moreno, imagines another way. It begins with an Oculus Rift virtual reality headset. On top, it attaches an RGB-D camera–that means it has a full color picture, plus it can measure the contours of a room to create a 3-D map. With this setup, the wearer is able to see a world painted in digital content.
As a wearer looks around, the system spots flat, open surfaces, like bare walls, stair steps, or the floor. And it treats these surfaces like blank canvases which it stuffs with digital images. In the above demo, you can watch as a Facebook Wall is placed on an actual wall. There’s also a pretty gratifying moment when the carpet on the floor changes instantaneously, as software swaps out one digital carpet for another without breaking a sweat.
The potential domestic cases are fascinating to consider. Practically speaking, you could place a recipe anywhere in your kitchen. There’s no reason this would need to be garish. Maybe clean typography could appear on your cutting board. Networked appliances could display their vitals–an oven might show its temperature or the time left on your roast in huge text that could be read from halfway across the room.
But the sci-fi possibilities interesting, too. With augmented reality headsets, each member of the family could share the same physical and social space, but experience it very differently. That doesn’t just mean you could all see a different Facebook feed on the wall. You could change the color of your walls without paint. Or maybe you like walnut and your spouse prefers maple. Don’t buy a new dining room table, just change the digital veneer.
Maybe this all sounds absurd. But the technology is getting there–just take a look at Ikea’s latest catalog that is a mind-bending 75% computer generated images. We’ll soon live in a world that we can all see differently–literally. What should that world look like?