Live from ISMAR ’08: Latest and Greatest on Augmented Reality Displays

Welcome back to ISMAR ’08; This is the second day and we are getting to the meaty topics.

Ozan Cakmakci is on stage and kicks off with walking through his paper: Optical free form surfaces in Off-Axis Head-Worn Display Design.

Ozan zooms through a quick history of optics and switches to a set of graphs and functions which you can review in his paper.

The conclusion is pretty clear though: Free form surfaces are useful in optical design to maximize performance in pupil size or field of view.

Questions such as who’s going to build it, when or how much it will cost – are left for guessing…


Next on stage is Sheng Liu from University of Arizona with the topic: An Optical See-Through Head Mounted Display with Addressable Focal Planes

Sheng talks about the stress on the eye in an AR situation where the eye has to accommodate real and virtual object and adjust the focus accordingly, and could cause headache to the viewer.

The solution is a variable-focal plane in a liquid lens.

Vari-focal with liquid lens for AR

Subjective tests result in a pretty good response from the participants. With the vari-focal plane in liquid lens, the human eye can accommodate change in focus from infinity to near focus and can be used for AR applications. This would even be improved in the future with upcoming improvements in liquid lens.

One of the members of the audience asks why not do this in software vs. hardware? Wouldn’t it be less expensive?

– Sheng claims the results are more accurate with the hardware approach.

To learn more about this, check out their website, the paper [link will be posted here], or contact sliu[at]


In the third leg of the “Displays” session Ernst Kruijff will speak about Vesp’R: design and evaluation of a handheld AR device.

UMPCs are a good starting point for AR displays – but tend to get bulky…

VAIO used for outdoor AR tracking at Oxford University

VAIO used for outdoor AR tracking at Oxford University

[I have analyzed this and other devices in my post: Top 10 AR devices]

Ernst will present an alternative design. The motivation for the research and the resulting paper was the lack of published knowledge  on this topic.

The team looked at a wide range of AR apps (such as Vidente an AR app for field workers) on different platforms and observed the common needs.

The need is simple: a lightweight device, with options for more controls, for long duration of use – indoors and outdoors.

UMPCs such as Vaio could are pretty heavy and become very tiring, especially when you hold it high.

Here is the result:

A solid case; velvety grip; controls are built into handles.
How good is it?
Based on a user attitude study – the new design is reasonable but not ideal…
When comparing with existing devices -some aspects were better and others not.

The conclusion is that although Vesp’R doubles the weight of a usual UMPC, it still provides improved ergonomics. But there is room for more research and improvements in this domain.

A member of the audience dares to ask: what if you used a much lighter device (such as a cell phone), would the results still be the same…?

Ernst is positive; just try to hold your hands straight ahead with no device at all – and you’ll feel the pain in a few minutes…

Stay tuned for the outdoor demo on Wednesday!


From the ISMAR ’08 Program

  • Optical Free-Form Surfaces in Off-Axis Head-Worn Display Design
    Ozan Cakmakci, Sophie Vo, Simon Vogl, Rupert Spindelbalker, Alois Ferscha, Jannick Rolland
  • An Optical See-Through Head Mounted Display with Addressable Focal Planes
    Sheng Liu, Dewen Cheng, Hong Hua
  • Vesp’R: design and evaluation of a handheld AR device
    Eduardo Veas, Ernst Kruijff

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