April 18, 2009
Wearable SixthSense Computers For Immersive Internet

MIT postdoc Pranav Mistry has created a wearable computer called Sixth Sense that is connected to the internet and which, among other things, will do web searches on products you pick up.

Say the wearer goes to the grocery store and picks up a box of cereal from the shelf. The camera sees this action and identifies the product. An Internet search automatically finds its exact specifications, such as the brand or nutrition facts. Then, the projector beams a green or red light onto the item, letting the wearer know if the cereal meets user-defined criteria. A consumer, for instance, might only want to buy a brand that is American-made, packaged in recyclable materials, or high in fiber.

You can already get an iPhone app that'll read product codes on products in stores and look up information about them. So this isn't so much a new function as a slightly different way to carry the functionality. But a device that constantly takes in local environment information will in the future do much more.

When outside conditions aren’t enough to prompt the Internet search, Sixth Sense makes use of gestures. Tracing a circle on your wrist tells the device to project a digital clock on your arm – the world’s lightest wristwatch, a fan joked. And the most natural function of all might be the way the camera snaps a picture when the wearer frames something with his fingers.

In this early stage, Mistry wraps colored tape around his thumbs and pointer fingers, markers that make them easier for the Web cam to spot.

This immersive real-time approach to integrating the internet with your life looks like the future. You'll have processes running on servers taking data feeds from your cell phone and from computer sensor networks built into your clothing. Software on your worn computers and on the servers will constantly analyse your surroundings and provide you with useful information.

Imagine looking at another person and having a computer camera in your glasses take a picture of their irises to to do a look-up on who they are. If they show up as dangerous on a police database you could be warned about the sorts of dangers they pose. If they are really dangerous they might be wearing a computer that not only allows the police to track their real-time movements but also to alert people around them of prior convictions for rape, pedophilia, car theft, and other charges.

Another useful function: name recall. You run into someone you haven't seen for a long time and your computer takes a picture, passes it to a server, compares it to everyone you've ever known, and comes back and tells you that's Jill Smith from your high school graduating class and that she's got a last name of Clark but is legally separated.

From Mistry's web site:

'SixthSense' is a wearable gestural interface that augments the physical world around us with digital information and lets us use natural hand gestures to interact with that information. By using a camera and a tiny projector mounted in a pendant like wearable device, 'SixthSense' sees what you see and visually augments any surfaces or objects we are interacting with. It projects information onto surfaces, walls, and physical objects around us, and lets us interact with the projected information through natural hand gestures, arm movements, or our interaction with the object itself. 'SixthSense' attempts to free information from its confines by seamlessly integrating it with reality, and thus making the entire world your computer.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2009 April 18 07:42 PM  Comm Tech Society

Fat Man said at April 18, 2009 8:55 PM:

So, there will be no peace and quiet in the future?

Thin Man said at April 18, 2009 9:01 PM:

The only thing worse than a Luddite is a fat Luddite.

David Govett said at April 18, 2009 11:03 PM:

The positive side is that the computer will be able to remind us every second of what we are missing by being tied to a computer.

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