Canon has announced a new augmented reality tool geared toward speeding up the product design process and easing the transition between the conception and execution of a product idea by allowing virtual prototypes to replace physical ones. The Mixed Reality (MR) System will make use of full-scale, three-dimensional computer generated (CG) images that change in real time based on the movements of the user.
Users will interact with the CG environment by wearing a slightly bulky looking headset containing two cameras which are placed in front of the left and right eyes. This dual-camera setup captures real-time video that is sent to a wired connected computer, which in turn crunches the relevant numbers to produce what Canon promises to be a precise amalgamation of the real world and CG visuals that are then fed back to the headset and displayed to the wearer.
Canon is keen to point out that its MR System can be combined with real world objects, such as a real set of car tires paired with a CG car, allowing the possibility of CG images being complemented with tactile feedback. By making use of the system, Canon says designers will be given the ability to get a better sense of how exactly their product will look in the real world, potentially saving considerable time and money that would be spent creating physical mock ups.
It's easy to imagine how a setup such as Canon's MR System could be successfully implemented in order to improve the designing and demoing process, but Canon has high hopes that its MR System may eventually be used in other areas too – surgical procedure simulations was one application in which the company felt the technology could prove useful in the future.
Canon is joined by Google, Sony and several other high profile corporations in the rush to realize its vision of what augmented reality can offer. This may indicate that the technology is set to evolve beyond gimmick status, into a genuinely exciting and powerful tool in the near future.
Pricing is said to vary depending on system configurations and for now availability will be confined to the Japanese market only, from late July.