HMD projects images that augment real world
Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology researchers, led by Professor of Electrical Engineering Hoi-Jun Yoo, have engineered an augmented reality (AR) chip that performs the way human vision does, integrated into a wearable, hands-free HMD.
Claimed to be the world's first, K-Glass is based on the Visual Attention Model (VAM) that duplicates the ability of human brain to process visual data. VAM, almost unconsciously or automatically, disentangles the most salient and relevant information about the environment in which human vision operates, thereby eliminating unnecessary data unless they must be processed. In return, the processor can dramatically speed up the computation of complex AR algorithms.
AR, as the name suggests, augments the reality of the user by incorporating a computer-generated digital data, instead of replacing the real world with a computer-simulated environment like in virtual reality. With the computer-made sensory inputs such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data, the user's real and physical world becomes live and interactive. Augmentation takes place in real-time and in semantic context with surrounding environments.
Most commonly, location-based or computer-vision services are used in order to generate AR effects. Location-based services activate motion sensors to identify the user's surroundings, whereas computer-vision uses algorithms such as facial, pattern, and optical character recognition, or object and motion tracking to distinguish images and objects. Many of the current HMDs deliver augmented reality experiences employing location-based services by scanning the markers or barcodes printed on the back of objects. The AR system tracks the codes or markers to identify objects and then align them with virtual reality. However, this AR algorithm is difficult to use for the objects or spaces which do not have barcodes, QR codes, or markers, particularly those in outdoor environments and thus cannot be recognised.
The researcher's AR processor has a data processing network similar to that of a human brain's central nervous system. When the human brain perceives visual data, different sets of neurons, all connected, work concurrently on each fragment of a decision-making process; one group's work is relayed to other group of neurons for the next round of the process, which continues until a set of decider neurons determines the character of the data. Likewise, the artificial neural network allows parallel data processing, alleviating data congestion and reducing power consumption significantly.
KAIST's AR processor, which is produced using the 65nm manufacturing process with an area of 32mm2, delivers 1.22TOPS (tera-operations per second) peak performance when running at 250MHz. It consumes 778mW on a 1.2V power supply. The ultra-low power processor shows 1.57TOPS/W high efficiency rate of energy consumption under the real-time operation of 30fps/720p video camera, a 76 per cent improvement in power conservation over other devices.
The HMDs, available on the market including the Project Glass whose battery lasts only for two hours, have revealed so far poor performance. Professor Yoo said, "Our processor can work for long hours without sacrificing K-Glass's high performance, an ideal mobile gadget or wearable computer, which users can wear for almost the whole day."
Professor Yoo adds: "HMDs will become the next mobile device, eventually taking over smartphones. Their markets have been growing fast, and it's really a matter of time before mobile users will eventually embrace an optical see-through HMD as part of their daily use. Through augmented reality, we will have richer, deeper, and more powerful reality in all aspects of our life from education, business, and entertainment to art and culture."
The KAIST team presented a research paper at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC) 2014 in San Francisco, entitled "1.22TOPS and 1.52mW/MHz Augmented Reality Multi-Core Processor with Neural Network NoC for HMD Applications."
- Jean-Pierre Joosting
EE Times Europe
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