By Shireen Passi Chopra
Do you remember that awesome scene in the Hollywood film Minority Report, where Tom Cruise, playing the fictional character of Chief John Anderton, head of a high-tech experimental program, just wriggles his hands in the air and there appears data which he begins sifting through?
Well, that was fiction but it could become reality someday. What I am talking about is ‘SixthSense’ which will make our physical world interact with the world of digital data, transforming the way we see and do things in our every day, internet driven world.
SixthSense is a gesture-based wearable computer system invented and further developed by two brilliant computer wizards from the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab. Steve Mann, a researcher and inventor of Canadian origin, invented this unique, state-of-the-art computer system in 1994 which was later further developed by Indian born computer scientist and inventor, Pranav Mistry.
The SixthSense technology contains a pocket projector and a camera (webcam) contained in a head-mounted or pendant-like, wearable device. Both the projector and the camera are connected to a mobile computing device in the user’s pocket. Further, if the user attaches colored tape to his fingertips, of a color different from the background, the software can track the position of those fingers.
A pocket projector and a webcam hang on the user’s chest, both wired to a laptop in his or her backpack, and the user wears four different-colored marker caps or pieces of tape on their thumbs and fingers.
When they switch on the system, the webcam starts capturing video and streaming it back to the computer. The real brains of this system, its software, filters out background imagery, determines x and y coordinates for each cap or tape color in the video frame and tracks them over time. The computer computes which colors are moving which way so it can follow freehand gestures. These, in turn, trigger various functions. A mini-projector then displays the relevant content — emails, stock charts, photos — on the nearest surface.
Within a few years, Pranav Mistry and his team hope that the SixthSense will let people operate smartphones without touching a button, do instant research on objects around them, and generally offer the kind of enhanced-reality experience that is now confined only to science fiction….or to Chief John Anderton.
Putting the art in ‘smart’, the SixthSense system, with all that it could do in the future, and its endless applications, is nothing short of magical. Just wear it and see its magic!
For example, you could take photographs just by making the shape of a frame with your fingers. You could also conjure a phone keypad in the palm of your hand and tap the virtual numbers to make a call. Or, you could pick up a product in supermarket (e.g. a package of paper towels) and the system could display related information (e.g. the amount of bleach used) back on the product itself. Or, you could draw a circle on your wrist and the system will project a clock on it.
Furthermore, the SixthSense can recognize a boarding pass and display related information such as flight delay and gate change. SixthSense can also recognize any book you pick up and display the Amazon rating on the book cover. It takes a photo of the book, compares it with book-cover images it finds online, computes a match, and retrieves and projects the ratings.
The SixthSense can scan newspaper stories and retrieve related video from YouTube or other websites, which it projects directly onto the surface of the newspaper. Apart from all this, this ‘smart’ system is also able to recognize people by their appearances and project a word cloud of related information retrieved from the Internet on the person’s body.
The SixthSense, which is currently a concept with a plan to become an actual product and be available in the markets one day, will take the coming together of various factors, including battery technology, miniature versions of the Microsoft Xbox Kinect camera and improvements in wireless data networks. And as technology develops further that day is not that far away.
The sense in SixthSense is surely going to transform the technological sensibilities of our world!