Microsoft’s Augmented Reality Work Not Confined to Hololens

Jaron Lanier – credited as one of the pioneers of virtual reality, now working at Microsoft Research – is working on multi-person augmented reality.

The work – shown privately at Siggraph earlier this year – is not related to Microsoft’s Hololens. The project being worked on by Lanier and his team is called Comradre (pronounced comradery), and allows multiple people to interact with the same virtual object. Headsets were made using smartphones or displays attached to laptops.

Virtual content is streamed at a low resolution, rather than being rendered in the headset. This means that the augmented reality animations remain dynamic. Tracking is performed with external sensors; for instance, an array of Kinect sensors generate real-time volumetric and skeletal data, as well as a spatial map of sound waves in the room.

A video, again first seen at Siggraph, shows some of the applications for such a system. Two students from the MIT Media Lab (Judith Amores and Xavier Benavides) created a way for real-world blocks to correspond with virtual objects and animations, for example; this would mean that multiple children could take part in a mixed-reality environment, without them all wearing headsets.

Lanier noted that the field of view of the Comradre system is wider than that of the Hololens: about 60°.