Augmented reality has blown up in 2012 thanks to Google's Project Glass, but a DIY eyepiece likened to a hearing aid for those without 3D vision shows there's more to wearables than recording point-of-view video. Gregory McRoberts' Borg-like DIY eyepatch augments his vision with senses humans wouldn't normally be blessed with: the ability to "see" temperature and precise distance.
Taking an Arduino as its core, the eyepiece uses an ultrasonic distance sensor and an infrared temperature sensor - accurate to 0.02 degrees fahrenheit - to control a set of colored LEDs. When the temperature drops below 80f, the light turns blue; above 80f, and it turns red. According to McRoberts, it's capable of picking up a hot item - such as a coffee cup - from 2-3 feet away.
As for proximity, a green LED blinks faster depending on how close the object you're facing is to you. McRoberts says he is already used to augmenting his senses - he wears a hearing aid - and quickly adapted to the lights, though the reaction from those around him has been more mixed.
"Socially wearing the device is another story. Of course here at OCAD-U it I easily accepted and met with great curiosity and fanfare but in public people don’t understand what it is. Hearing aids are well accepted for their sleek, tight form factor so that I am sure is a huge part of why people are uncomfortable with it. I have been asked most of all if the device is recording them. It has no camera or the capability to record any of the incoming information. But just like a hearing aid it provides what is missing and gives the wearer new information in a usable way" Gregory McRoberts
While the more high-profile demonstrations of augmented reality have generally focused on overlaying a view of the real-world with computer generated graphics - such as directions - there's a whole other segment of research looking into so-called mediated reality. Steve Mann, widely referred to as the father of wearables, has been working on not just adding to our existing senses but in effect giving humans extra senses in areas we wouldn't normally have them, such as increasing the range of our vision using HDR techniques.
Mann's own eyepiece uses high-speed image capture and processing to combine data from three differently exposed frames shot almost simultaneously, allowing the researcher to see detail that the unaided human eye would not normally be able to perceive. The technology - which he wears permanently - has got him into trouble, however; Mann was allegedly assaulted in a French fast food restaurant for refusing to take off the wearable.