Smart glasses base augmented reality on human vision

February 20, 2014 // By Jean-Pierre Joosting
Researchers at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) have developed K-Glass, a wearable, hands-free HMD that features a built-in augmented reality (AR) processor.

Unlike virtual reality which replaces the real world with a computer-simulated environment, AR incorporates digital data generated by the computer into the reality of a user. With the computer-made sensory inputs such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data, the user's real and physical world becomes live and interactive. Augmentation takes place in real-time and in semantic context with surrounding environments.

Most commonly, location-based or computer-vision services are used in order to generate AR effects. Location-based services activate motion sensors to identify the user's surroundings, whereas computer-vision uses algorithms such as facial, pattern, and optical character recognition, or object and motion tracking to distinguish images and objects. Many of the current HMDs deliver augmented reality experiences employing location-based services by scanning the markers or barcodes printed on the back of objects. The AR system tracks the codes or markers to identify objects and then align them with virtual reality. However, this AR algorithm is difficult to use for the objects or spaces which do not have barcodes, QR codes, or markers, particularly those in outdoor environments and thus cannot be recognized.

To solve this problem, Hoi-Jun Yoo, Professor of Electrical Engineering at KAIST and his team developed an AR chip that works just like human vision, claiming a world first. This processor is based on the Visual Attention Model (VAM) that duplicates the ability of human brain to process visual data. VAM, almost unconsciously or automatically, disentangles the most salient and relevant information about the environment in which human vision operates, thereby eliminating unnecessary data unless they must be processed. In return, the processor can dramatically speed up the computation of complex AR algorithms.