MIT Media Lab Develops Augmented Reality "Surround Vision" [Video]

By Paul Lilly

Surround Vision technology opens the door to a whole new level of immersion in watching TV.

You can't very well call your living room setup a true 'home theater' without surround sound, be it a 5.1 blue light special from Wal-Mart or an ultra high-end 7.1 configuration that you spent thousands of dollars piecing together. That's great and all for your ears, but why don't we impose the same type of criteria for our eyes? We don't have an answer for that, and neither do researchers at MIT's Media Lab, who just might be on to something with their "Surround Vision" technology.
Surround Vision is exactly what it sounds like, but without the wraparound monitor or hassle (and cost) of placing several displays around your living room. Instead, Surround Vision technology taps into your run-of-the-mill handheld devices to expand the world you're viewing. As Santiago Alfara, a graduate student in the lab who's leading the project explains it, "If you're watching TV and you hear a helicopter in your surround sound, wouldn't it be cool to just turn around and be able to see that helicopter as it goes into the screen?" Yes it would.
In a video demonstration (below) Alfara shows how easy it is to pan around the frame of video footage that was shot of the street in front of the Media Lab from three different angles. As he moves the handheld device to the left or right, he's able to see alternate angles that aren't displayed on the main television set. It's a little rough in that the transition isn't completely smooth, but you get the gist of where this could go. Imagine watching a hockey game and turning to the left to see what's going on at the other end of the ice.  Very cool indeed.

 In what ways could you see this technology being best utilized? Is it too much to ask of TV viewers to hold a handheld device while watching a movie or TV show?