Augmented Reality meets Kinect, makes Magic … Mirror

March 7, 2011 by Dave Haynes

Tech blogger Robert Scoble has a fascinating guest post up on TechCrunch about a recent visit to the Silicon Valley R&D lab of SRI International, which has some 1,700 researchers doing work on tremendously important things like medical imaging, and not so important things like the future of shopping.

I was, of course, most interested in the shopping thing, which will cure nothing but was really interesting to see in action.

SRI has taken the Microsoft Kinect gesture platform and mashed it up with augmented reality to come up with their own version of a Magic Mirror.

You will have seen early AR apps that overlay a static visual on top of a person using cameras – so that a women could sorta, kinda see how a dress looked on them. With this platform, a person can gesture at the screen to show what they look like holding different handbags, but clap to change the handbag or reach up to change the physical setting in the background of the visual.

I like how the engineers were smart enough to use a mature woman – not some tech-savvy young woman – to silently reinforce this is the sort of thing anyone could use.

Either that, or this woman picked the wrong time to walk into what looks like the SRI cafeteria.

It’s still just lab stuff but this shows AR is getting more sophisticated, and shows as well how the Kinect platform can get pushed. I could imagine as other technologies get layered and marketers – not just engineers – get involved how this sort of app could start to make clothing suggestions, upsell on other accessories and summon a sales associate when activity reaches a certain threshold or milestone.

That’s at a store with a large screen, but given a 50-inch plasma is maybe $500 now, a Kinect box on a smart TV takes the store visit out of the equation.

You have to know firms like InWindow would see this and instantly start cooking up ideas on how they could use it  in large-format street-level promotions for movies and consumer products.

Interesting side note. I ended up chatting in the departure lounge, waiting to head home from DSE, with Vincent John Vincent, one of the founders of GestureTek. The Toronto-based company’s core gesture platform is licensed by Microsoft for Kinect, and while much as has been added, GestureTek gets a royalty for every Kinect unit sold.


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