“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” – Arthur C. Clarke
Imagine working in an environment where technology and ideas are original and groundbreaking. Imagine learning from a person whose innovation and dreams are set to change the world we live in. Would you believe me if I told you this was happening at our own university?
At the UniSA Mawson Lakes campus, there is a room in the D building where people are making history.
Dr Christian Sandor and his students are researching and experimenting with Augmented Reality (AR) in their ‘Magic Vision Lab’. Founded in 2009, the team’s vision is to “enhance human vision with computer-generated graphics and amplify human intelligence worldwide.”
Impressed? You should be.
You may be forgiven for thinking the lecturer with a PHD in computer science sitting opposite me is a grey haired, mad scientist waffling on about theories and other scientific jargon – but the opposite couldn’t be more apparent.
Dr Sandor is young and passionate about what he has created as the Magic Vision Lab’s director. He’s also the world’s leading expert in AR.This technology has multiple uses. Say you find yourself at a battlefield site and have your iPhone handy. Using Dr Sandor’s app, you can see a re-enactment of the battle through your phone. High school history field trips could have been almost bearable.
But it goes so much further beyond this. Dr Sandor is developing technology millions of people can use by creating a design environment that enables people to see and touch virtual objects.
The psychological aspect of Dr Sandor’s work is also fascinating. In creating a setting where those wearing the AR helmet could see their own hand on virtual ‘fire’, some people felt warmth and even smelled smoke.
“Out of 20 participants who took part in the controlled experiment, 20 people who had never heard of the experiment, six of those felt heat,” he said.
This amazing display won best demo at the 2011 IEEE Symposium on Mixed and Augmented Reality; it really does have to be seen to be believed.
Dr Sandor is currently working on a vision that helps reduce the anxiety suffered by stroke victims. Once complete, a person can wear the AR helmet and see their paralysed limbs working flawlessly. Sandor believes a stroke victim who can see full movement of their body has more incentive to continue with their rehabilitation.
AR may also be used in medical school, where students could perform virtual autopsies as learning tools, or in laboratories for virtual dissections.
Dr Sandor clearly wants the Lab’s findings to help people, but he realises the need to keep things simple.
“There are two types of researchers: very technologically oriented researchers, and ergonomics researchers who care about making things very usable and easily understandable,” he said.
“My mission statement is to bridge this gap between technology and psychology.”
The possibilities of AR are endless, as is Dr Sandor’s enthusiasm for his work.
“I like to do fun things,” he said.
“My feeling is if these systems get cheaper, they should be in every home, every classroom.
“My vision is that everybody can see and touch virtual objects on a worldwide scale.”
The Magic Vision Lab is a glimpse of the future, and it’s happening right here at UniSA.
Learn more at magicvisionlab.com.