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Now Available: Innovators Under 35 2013 See The 2013 List »

Pranav Mistry, 28

A simple, wearable device enhances the real world with digital information

MIT

Retrieving information from the Web when you're on the go can be a challenge. To make it easier, graduate student Pranav Mistry has developed SixthSense, a device that is worn like a pendant and super­imposes digital information on the physical world. Unlike previous "augmented reality" systems, Mistry's consists of in­expensive, off-the-shelf hardware. Two cables connect an LED projector and webcam to a Web-enabled mobile phone, but the system can easily be made wireless, says Mistry.

Users control SixthSense with simple hand gestures; putting your fingers and thumbs together to create a picture frame tells the camera to snap a photo, while drawing an @ symbol in the air allows you to check your e-mail. It is also designed to automatically recognize objects and retrieve relevant information: hold up a book, for instance, and the device projects reader ratings from sites like Amazon.com onto its cover. With text-to-speech software and a Bluetooth headset, it can "whisper" the information to you instead.

Remarkably, Mistry developed SixthSense in less than five months, and it costs under $350 to build (not including the phone). Users must currently wear colored "marker­s" on their fingers so that the system can track their hand gestures, but he is designing algorithms that will enable the phone to recognize them directly. --Brittany Sauser

1. Camera: A webcam captures an object in view and tracks the user's hand gestures. It sends the data to the smart phone.

2. Colored Markers: Marking the user's fingers with red, yellow, green, and blue tape helps the webcam recognize gestures. Mistry is working on gesture-recognition algorithms that could eliminate the need for the markers.

3. Projector: A tiny LED projector displays data sent from the smart phone on any surface in view--object, wall, or person. Mistry hopes to start using laser projectors to increase the brightness.

4. Smart Phone: A Web-enabled smart phone in the user's pocket processes the video data, using vision algorithms to identify the object. Other software searches the Web and interprets the hand gestures.

Credit: Sam Ogden

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