A Virtual Step Forward

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HKUST researchers are boosting augmented-reality app development

If you think the hovering displays in the Iron Man movies are just science fiction, it’s time to think again. Augmented reality (AR) is the next big thing for mobile devices, and HKUST’s System and Media Lab (SysMLab) is at the forefront of its development.

SysMLab researchers, led by director Prof Pan Hui, are building a platform for programmers to develop AR apps for mobile and wearable devices. Since the lab’s inception in January 2013, the focus has been on addressing problems in daily life by providing personalized information in the virtual world.

Taking a bottom-up approach, Prof Hui explained, “we sought to identify and develop major AR components including hardware platforms, software frameworks and display devices.” The team then used technologies such as object tracking and computation offloading to significantly accelerate the development cycle from three months to only one week.

With 18 patents filed, the lab members have developed a broad mastery of the AR field. Among their numerous projects, CloudRidAR heightens the performance of AR apps by offloading intensive computations to the cloud, allowing users to access huge amounts of data when they point their mobile devices at objects such as books.

The lab is also developing a system known as Ubii for interacting with smart devices, such as by sending a file to a printer using a “dragging” hand gesture. Other projects include a real-time emotion sensing system and an interactive privacy platform with which users can avoid being identified or photographed by digital cameras.

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