Google’s Glass is without doubt the hot topic in consumer technology these days. They look cool and futuristic, sure, but at the end they’re actually an augmented reality head-mounted display that can perform many of the same functions as a smartphone. But hey, Google’s not the only one fiddling with augmented reality these days. Check out Canon’s Mixed Reality System (MREAL) and it will blow your mind away.
Traditional virtual reality systems create a virtual reality by blocking out the real world. The MREAL, on the other hand, takes a different approach. It simultaneously merges virtual objects with the real world full scale and in 3-D. All this is accomplished with a three-part system that includes a head-mounted display (HMD), MR Platform software, and third-party markers and sensors, all of which combine to, according to Canon, give the user “an almost life-like experience of ‘being there.’” This means some time in the future instead of taking a trip down to the store to check out that latest gadget you want to buy, you can just put on the MREAL and view it right in your living room. That’s what I’m talking about!
As to how exactly the MREAL works, it’s quite simple really. The real world is captured with linked video cameras that are located on the right and left of the HMD worn by the user. A video is sent to a computer via the connected cable (the HMD isn’t wireless yet, but it surely will be in the not-too-distant future). The virtual CG video is combined with the video from the real world, and then the combined video is sent back to the user. During a hands-on demo given by Canon, people sat in a car seat while wearing the HMD. Above them were multiple sensors that recorded their movements. People could even see minute details of the car – such as the texture of the interior leather – when they moved their head farther or closer away from the virtual vehicle. Wow.
MREAL obviously has the potential to make the current generation of 3-D displays seem rather flat by comparison. And a seemingly infinite number of sectors this system can be put to use – like defense construction, medical, graphic, scientific and automobile industries – makes the MREAL a pretty sweet deal. Though it all sounds very exciting, the technology doesn’t come cheap. Available March 1 in the US, the starting price is a whopping $125,000, which will include the head-mount display and the platform software. Not only that, maintenance will cost another $25,000 annually. It is hard, thus, to picture the Canon MREAL trickling down to the everyday user anytime soon. But hey, look what the future has in store…