Wearables

Peer into the future of augmented reality with Project North Star

Peer into the future of augmen...
Project North Star is Leap Motion's imagining of what an AR headset could look like
Project North Star is Leap Motion's imagining of what an AR headset could look like
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Project North Star is Leap Motion's imagining of what an AR headset could look like
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Project North Star is Leap Motion's imagining of what an AR headset could look like
The final design of Project North Star has been trimmed down from earlier prototypes like this one
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The final design of Project North Star has been trimmed down from earlier prototypes like this one
Leap Motion wants to open source the design of Project North Star so anyone can build on it
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Leap Motion wants to open source the design of Project North Star so anyone can build on it
Leap Motion has demoed various ways in which Project North Star can blend the real and the virtual
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Leap Motion has demoed various ways in which Project North Star can blend the real and the virtual

Leap Motion is best known for its sensors that let you "touch" virtual reality objects, but it just unveiled an augmented reality headset called Project North Star. It's promised to seamlessly blend the real and the digital, and give users a new level of control over AR worlds.

For now this isn't something you can buy, but rather a blueprint that Leap Motion wants to open source so that other manufacturers can build on top of it. Interestingly, the claim is that the whole device can be built for less than US$100 – though the final headsets will no doubt cost more, and will still need separate computers to power them.

Even so, with developer kits for the Microsoft HoloLens costing $3,000, that's an attractive price. As well as the low cost, Leap Motion is hoping to set a new standard for the way we interact with the AR objects projected before our eyes, with individual hand and even finger tracking possible.

Leap Motion wants to open source the design of Project North Star so anyone can build on it
Leap Motion wants to open source the design of Project North Star so anyone can build on it

In terms of the actual hardware, Project North Star includes two 3.5-inch LCD displays with a resolution of 1,600 x 1,440 pixels for each eye, and a field of view that's 95 degrees high and 70 degrees wide (not bad by today's standards). The integrated Leap Motion sensor tracks hand motion across a full 180 degrees horizontally and vertically.

As for the looks, well... you can see for yourself. This isn't something you'd want to wear on the bus home in its current form, but it might work sat at your desk or in a games room.

"Although this is an experimental platform right now, we expect that the design itself will spawn further endeavors that will become available to the rest of the world," writes Leap Motion's David Holz in a blog post.

Leap Motion has demoed various ways in which Project North Star can blend the real and the virtual
Leap Motion has demoed various ways in which Project North Star can blend the real and the virtual

Despite the impressive specs, Leap Motion itself admits that more work needs to be done on the prototype design before the blueprint is put out into the world, but you can consider it a peek of what's coming down the line in AR technology, particularly in terms of the quality of the displays and the accuracy of the object tracking.

As we've seen from the ARKit platform built into iOS devices, and the ARCore platform built into Android gadgets, augmented reality overlays are now looking like they actually belong in a scene – the line between real and digital is blurring, and Project North Star is another step towards that.

In some of the demos posted online, Leap Motion engineers show how virtual objects can fit exactly to a finger or to a hand, whether that's holding a digital cube in mid-air or selecting buttons on an AR-generated menu. Leap Motion may or may not find partners willing to build on the Project North Star designs, but this is certainly the direction that AR technology is heading in.

Source: Leap Motion

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