Augmented Reality smartphone dongle bids the tape measure farewell
Just when we thought tapeless tape measures would be the year's pinnacle of innovation in measuring devices, along comes a breakthrough that more or less gets rid of the measure to boot. The Arrim One purports to be the world's first "professional" Augmented Reality measuring device – a small laser emitter which connects to a smartphone to size up straight lines, circles and angles, and shows those measurements in your AR view of the world. A Kickstarter to fund the project is hurtling towards its US$20,000 target.
Arrim One makes use of your phone's camera for the Augmented Reality bit, cleverly superimposing dimensions over what you see on screen. Simply point your camera and tap the screen to confirm the points you want to measure between. As you go, the app creates a 3D point map of the environment, so you can move around while still seeing those measurements displayed.
The device detects the phase shift in the laser to gauge distance, but combines this with your phone's smarts to measure things other than the straight lines normal laser measures are restricted to.
The aluminum device measures a mere 5 x 3 x 1.5 cm (2 x 1.2 x 0.6 in) and weighs 35 g (1.2 oz). It has a 100-mAh lithium-ion battery, claimed to be good for 1,000 measurements on a single charge. Aside from the built-in on and off button, the Arrim ONE is controlled solely using a phone. It's compatible with iPhones from the 6s onwards, and a range of popular Android devices running Android 8.0 or later.
By "professional," the Arrim One's makers are presumably referring to its accuracy, which they claim is good for plus or minus 1.5 mm (0.06 in) up to a range of 20 meters (66 ft). This in contrast to other AR measuring apps on the market (without the laser add-on) that are about as much use as an electric toilet brush, or so the Arrim One's makers have it (though not in those words, admittedly). The device can actually be used up to a range of 40 meters, though the accuracy over this distance isn't given. Bright sunlight can hamper usefulness over long distances too.
Its makers claim it's more accurate than the alternatives in measuring circles, based on the principle that three points define a circle, which will surely come as welcome news to circle-measurers everywhere. The technology can also visually divide up areas and display horizontal lines – useful for hanging pictures or putting up shelves. It can also handily convert between units and share measurements with others. Because much of the technology is in the software, its makers point out it could be updated to add more features in the future.
Arrim One should retail at $79, but at the time of writing some early-bird Kickstarter pledges are still available at $69. The team is hopeful of shipping this September, but as with any crowd-funding campaign, buyer beware. Risks aside, this looks a genuinely impressive piece of kit. Hats off.
You can see a summary video below.