Say you're in New York... or Tokyo. You have absolutely no idea where you are, where you need to go, or where the closest Starbucks is. Sure, you could look at the mapping app on your AGPS-equipped handset, but where's the sci-fi in that? Leave it to Japan's NTT DoCoMo (in partnership with Olympus) to whip up a wearable augmented reality solution that's nearly small enough (and reasonable-looking enough) for individuals with an ounce of self-respect to use, and we've had a chance to check it out here at CEATEC this week. Follow the break for impressions and video!
The system consists of an HTC HT-02A in a cradle attached to a strap that you wear around your neck cabled to a stalk that attaches to the side of a pair of eyeglasses; NTT DoCoMo provided clear-lens glasses for those of us that didn't come with our own, but if you were already sporting some corrective gear (see: Ross), they were able to just slap the electronics to them and you were good to go -- albeit with the occasional adjustment (the prototype just wasn't built for thick rims). The end of the stalk has a miniature display that duplicates what's seen on the HTC; we found it a little finicky to get positioned correctly so we could see the entire image, but it was surprisingly clear and legible once we figured it out. In the demo, turning your head to the left or right would cause an arrow to appear, directing you to walk forward; a mushroom-shaped dude walks in front of you and holds up a sign to let you know when you've arrived. As a final touch, looking up (at the sky, that is) changes the screen to show you the weather forecast -- pretty clever.
The company says there aren't any plans for commercialization right now; obviously, they'll have to iterate through another generation or two before it's small enough for people to wear without a hassle (and no one's going to wear a WinMo 6.5 device around their neck like a scarlet 'A'), but it's something we'll definitely be expecting everyone to wear while they're walking around town within a couple hundred years.
Additional reporting by Ross Miller
NTT DoCoMo's AR Walker is augmented reality at its finest (video)
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