Stereoscopic AR Viewer




Introduction

This project entailed the research and development of a handheld Stereoscopic Augmented Reality Viewer for viewing 3D AR models within the HitLabNZ Research Labs at Canterbury University, New Zealand, December 06 – April 2007. The design brief called for an experimental prototype for the research of user experiences with AR hardware and their subsequent interaction with the AR visualisations.

During my Final Year Industrial Design Project ‘Buycode’ I contacted HitlabNZ as part of my research. I was soon contracted by HitlabNZ to fix an existing model they had previously had designed and built called the MonoVision (which contained only 1 camera). After I had finished the Buycode project, I was then contracted to design and construct an experimental prototype called the StereoVision (2 Cameras) which would be an entirely new design. The concept of the viewer’s design was very similar to the Buycode Viewer, except (despite my disapproval) the clients wanted to reuse the handle from the MonoVision. The project was a good opportunity to use the design theories I had developed in my undergraduate project and apply them as a professional designer.

The initial research, planning and testing conducted at the beginning of the project was used to develop the framework for a series of Solidworks CAD modelling stages. During this stage I teamed up with good friend and Solidworks Guru Joseph Mcenteer to experiment with different methods of achieving the desired functionality.

The result was a fully functional Stereoscopic Viewer fabricated with a Rapid Prototyping Machine. The viewer was designed to offer three modes of articulation. This is because it would be predominantly used for research purposes before considering a commercially viable model. This research was concerned with determining the optimum position of the camera in relation to the optics for viewing by a person. The design offers three modes of articulation which are; the separation of the cameras in relation to the optics, the tilting of the cameras up and down and the rotation of the handle in 1 direction. See Joe’s website for excellent documentation:  www.mcenteerdesign.com/hitlabnz

My overall analyses of the design is that while the casing provides 3 ranges of movement, the idea itself is somewhat compromised due to the complexity of the movements required and the bulkiness of the components. Because of which, ultimately HitlabNZ have since focused more of their attention on the use of mobile devices such as smartphones.


Background

Stereoscopic imaging or 3D imaging is any technique capable of recording three-dimensional visual information or creating the illusion of depth in an image. Traditional stereoscopic photography consists of creating a 3D illusion starting from a pair of 2D images. The easiest way to create depth perception in the brain is to provide to the eyes of the viewer two different images, representing two perspectives of the same object.

Research by HitlabNZ in Augmented Reality is currently predominantly recorded using a single camera termed Monovision. Using Stereovision (2 cameras) offers an interesting opportunity to experiment with depth perception and the way our eyes register augmented reality. In order to avoid eyestrain and distortion, the two 2-D images are presented to each eye of the viewer so that any object at any distance can be seen. The images also need to be seen while the eye is looking straight ahead, with the viewer’s eyes being neither crossed nor diverging. Ideally the two cameras which are used to see this Augmented world will have similar capabilities to our own eyes.

The Stereoscopic Model will be designed to securely encase the components, while allowing greater freedom of movement for testing. This presents the opportunity to change the distances of separation in the model and experiment with camera focus in relation to the optics. The prototype will better equip HitlabNZ with the means to understand how augmented reality can be used to present information in a more intuitive way. This may also provide the research Facility the resources to advertise itself to a wider range of potential investment opportunities.

I still need to add more images depicting the movement and rotation of the prototype.

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