Canon to launch augmented-reality platform based on head-mounted displays

The Japanese company said it will sell the platform from June, targeting product as well as interior designers

Canon said Monday it will launch a new augmented-reality platform that uses head-mounted displays to realistically project virtual images onto real backgrounds.

The Japanese manufacturer, known mainly for its cameras and copy machines, said the platform will allow users to view 3D objects from different angles by simply walking around them. Canon says its technology differs from other augmented-reality solutions because virtual images can be accurately viewed from any angle.

The system employs visual markers placed in the real world to provide orientation. The markers are identified using Canon's specially designed head-mounted displays, which have one small digital camera next to each eye. The cameras provide input into the system software, which calculates how users should see virtual items and generates images correspondingly.

The virtual images are shown to users using two tiny display panels that sit just above the eyes. The images from the display panels are carefully aligned with user's point of view, to keep the virtual world aligned with the real one.

This camera-display combination allows the platform to display virtual items and shapes as though they are being viewed at the correct size and angle, even as users change position.

The company says it will begin sales of the platform from late June in Japan, and that Canon's foreign marketing subsidiaries may sell it abroad as well in the future. Canon will initially target the manufacturing industry, pitching the system as a way to look at new products before they are manufactured or test proposed factory layouts. It is also considering selling the system to companies that reform the interiors of buildings or for use in simulating surgical procedures.

The system runs on Windows 7 and Windows XP, and requires the use of its camera-equipped head-mounted displays and markers.

Canon said it will display the system at the 3D and Virtual Reality Expo to be held in Tokyo later this week.

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