Mixed reality technology a reality

This year’s SolidWorks World in February had many exciting technologies on show. Alan Johnson was in California to witness just some of them.

ATTENDING this year’s SolidWorks World in February was akin to looking into the future; and feeling virtually there.

Canon’s stand in the Partner Pavilion, for example, was dedicated to the company’s exciting new mixed reality (MR) technology.

MR refers to imaging technologies designed to seamlessly integrate the real and virtual worlds in real time.

Canon has developed a unique video see-through head-mounted display (HMD) that incorporates a compact built in camera.

The HMD aligns the optical axes of the camera and display optical systems to eliminate parallax between the lines of sight of the observer and the camera.

When wearing the HMD, computer-generated objects appear to exist in real space, enabling the user to easily grasp the scale of the virtual objects within real-world surroundings.

Two HMDs were on show in Anaheim, one enabled me to walk through a 3D CAD generated complex process plant, seeing all the pipes and equipment in detail at all angles. The other HMD allowed me to operate a 3D CAD generated photocopier, which in reality was just a box on the stand. Amazing technology.

This time, Canon prototyped an MR technology that requires converting CAD data. But the company is planning to add a function to show CAD data in a real space without data conversion.

The technology enables users to view not only the mechanical part to be designed by 3D CAD but also the models that are being moved by control software in CAD. The company considers that it is possible to save considerable time spent for remodelling by taking account of control software at an early stage.

Canon says it is presently applying the MR technology with digital prototyping to the car industry.

In the case of car body design, the system enables designers to view a vehicle as it would appear if parked on a city street, allowing them to inspect such design factors as the overall appearance, styling details, and colour variations.

MR technology enables the user a realistic 3D view of products that have still yet to be created.

Image alignment

Canon says the key to MR technology for practical use is eliminating discrepancies in alignment, timing and imaging when merging the real and virtual worlds.

In order to ensure proper alignment between the real and virtual worlds, it is necessary to calculate in real time the position and orientation of the user’s head within the 3D real world.

To address this need, Canon has developed a hybrid approach that combines sensors and advanced image-processing technology.

More specifically, the MR technology combines the HMD’s built-in camera, independent cameras located in the real world, and a gyroscopic sensor contained in the HMD.

Canon says the effective operational range has expanded considerably than the 1m achieved in earlier attempts. The company aims to further improve the precision of its MR technology while developing the system for use in a broad range of applications.

Digi Info has some videos on YouTube which show the technology working, go to www.youtube.com/watch?v=o2NIX7DNpvk and www.youtube.com/watch?v=a4hwCU-LUSM.

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