There's more than one way to conjure up an augmented reality experience, as the DeepFrame One AR screen being demoed at CES 2018 this week proves. Instead of having users wear chunky AR specs, the display uses optical trickery to make moving objects appear as if they're actually in the room.
At 64 inches in size, this isn't necessarily the sort of hardware you're going to get set up in your living room – it needs another, separate display to project the image in the first place – but it could find a place in museums, retail stores, and other places where a crowd of people might want to watch an augmented reality show.
This is the first commercial-ready, retail version of the DeepFrame technology that developer Realfiction has made. At the same time as launching the DeepFrame One, the company is introducing tools to make it easy for anyone who might be interested in buying a display to make content for it.
For obvious competitive reasons Realfiction isn't revealing the exact nature of its patented methods, but the screen uses reflections and magnifications to do its magic – there's no electronics inside the screen itself, just in the box used to project the moving images. The technology can be used to create AR scenes that stretch for miles, Realfiction says, as long as you're peering through a DeepFrame viewer.
A museum could show a dinosaur hopping around the room, for example, or a car showroom could use DeepFrame One to give the illusion of a vehicle in three dimensions rather than just two. Thanks to the magic of AR, the car could even be customized in front of a potential buyer's eyes.
It might also eventually be used for a kind of immersive video call conferencing system. One of the demos being shown off at the Consumer Electronics Show uses a webcam and microphone to enable two people to hold a conversation in augmented reality.
This being CES, the tech hasn't actually gone on sale yet, but once it does, Realfiction says you'll be looking at a price of around US$50,000 to $60,000 to get this up and running in your art gallery or shopping mall. That's very much an early adopter price, but not out of the range of businesses and institutions.
Considering the alternative would be fitting every audience member or passerby with an augmented reality headset, the DeepFrame One certainly has its benefits in terms of scope and convenience – and having augmented reality available in so many different forms has to be promising for its future.
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