MIT's X-AR system guides users to RFID-tagged hidden items
It can be frustrating when you're searching for an object, knowing that you may have looked right where it is without realizing you've done so. A new augmented reality system could help, by showing users where specific items are … even if they're hidden from view.
Built upon previous research, the experimental X-AR system was developed by a team at MIT.
It consists of a modified Microsoft HoloLens augmented reality headset, along with small, inexpensive RFID (radio frequency identification) tags.
Like other RFID tags, these are temporarily powered up by radio waves emitted from a portable reader device. The tags then use a tiny integrated antenna to transmit a radio signal back to that reader. That signal contains information on the item to which the tag is adhered.
In the case of the X-AR system, the headset serves as the reader. In order for it to do so, it's been equipped with a loop antenna that sends and receives radio signals to and from the RFID-tagged item. Those signals can travel through solid matter, so it doesn't matter if the item (along with its tag) is hidden behind other objects.
As the user moves about, the X-AR system measures how far the headset is from the tag at various locations within the room. Utilizing this data, it can triangulate the location of the item to within an average distance of 9.8 cm (3.9 in). The user is guided by a transparent sphere in the display, which is superimposed over the item's location.
Once the person gets to that location, the system utilizes the headset's hand-tracking functionality to determine when the item is actually being grasped by the user. X-AR can then confirm that the item is indeed the sought-after object, via its tag's unique radio signal.
In tests performed in a setting that simulated a warehouse full of boxes and bins, the system correctly verified that users had picked up the right item 98.9% of the time, overall. Even when the item was stored within one of the boxes, the system still managed to be 91.9% accurate.
The scientists are now working on improvements to the system, including extending its range beyond the current 3 meters (9.8 ft). One method of doing so could involve wirelessly linking multiple X-AR headsets being used within one building, allowing them to share data with one another.
"Our whole goal with this project was to build an augmented reality system that allows you to see things that are invisible – things that are in boxes or around corners – and in doing so, it can guide you toward them and truly allow you to see the physical world in ways that were not possible before," said Assoc. Prof. Fadel Adib, senior author of a paper on the research.
There's more information in the following video.