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This augmented reality projector just needs a lightbulb socket

July 12th, 2017 at 10:03 PM
augmented reality projector

With all the biggest names in tech dabbling in some form of augmented reality — and with Apple finally jumping in and making it easier than ever for developers to make their own AR apps — it might not be long before it’s part of our every day lives. But actually using AR is often a cumbersome process, and if you don’t want to be forced into wearing a headset or goggles, or staring through your smartphone screen, researchers think they might have the solution, and it’s so small you can plug it right into a light socket.

The Future Interfaces Group at Carnegie Mellon University has developed a relatively small augmented reality projector that can beam a fully interactive display onto virtually any surface. The system, which the researchers have taken to calling Desktopography, combines a computer, depth sensor, and projector into a single unit. It’s small enough that it can be plugged into a light socket, and the current prototype of the hardware is actually really impressive.

The idea here is that instead of looking through a screen to view and interact with augmented reality applications, the display itself could be projected into surfaces that you’re actually touching. A video demonstration of the system shows that it could be used for everything from projecting a touchscreen map onto your desk, to “docking” applications (like a calculator) onto real-world objects like a laptop.

“It’s about trying to break interaction out from our screens and our devices, where they’re separated from reality, and a separate world, really … and try to merge those onto our environment,” lead researcher and graduate student Robert Xiao says.

There’s no doubt here that goggle-free AR is more appealing and user-friendly than, say, Microsoft’s massive HoloLens headset, but it remains to be seen whether the applications are truly powerful enough to be useful for the average person.

Mike Wehner has reported on technology and video games for the past decade, covering breaking news and trends in VR, wearables, smartphones, and future tech.

Most recently, Mike served as Tech Editor at The Daily Dot, and has been featured in USA Today,, and countless other web and print outlets. His love of reporting is second only to his gaming addiction.

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