The augmented reality industry is currently focused on headsets such as Microsoft's HoloLens, which Redmond markets as a revolutionary tool for gaming experience, 3D design and modeling, and classroom instruction. But although the headsets do a good job of connecting the virtual and physical elements using holograms, their biggest limitation is that they first need to be worn. So what if the headsets can be done away with?

If the uncovered Amazon patent gets implemented, collaboration via AR would no longer require a headset. All people need to do is walk into a room.

The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) awarded Amazon with two patents. Patent A, US 9,204,121 B1, is for a reflector-based depth mapping of a scene. Patent B, US 9,201,499 B1, details Amazon's solution for object tracking in a 3D environment.

Reflector-Based Depth Mapping of a Scene

Patent A explains that the depth of one or more objects in a scene may be determined using a system that has a single light source and a shutter mechanism associated with it, such as a camera and a reflector.

"More particularly, the light source may output light that is directed towards the scene (a first set of light beams) and towards the reflector (a second set of light beams) utilizing the shutter mechanism," according to an excerpt of Patent A. "The reflector may then reflect the second set of light beams towards the scene. The camera may then capture the first image that corresponds to the first set of light beams and second image that corresponds to the second set of light beams."

The image should help the explanation make sense.


Object Tracking in a 3D Environment

This applies to gesture input to an augmented reality system.

"In a particular implementation, 3D images of the environment maybe captured and 2D contoursof objects within the environment maybe generated," an excerpt from patent B. "Overlap between regions defined by the 2D contours of objects in the 3D images maybe utilized to determine whether an object in a first 3D image is the same as an object in a second 3D image that is capture subsequent to the first 3D image."

The image below can help explain this.

As WIRED reports, several tech companies have also invested in a similar technology. Apple, with its Apple projector, and Microsoft, with its Illumiroom, has showcased how digital environments can be generated. The video below should give a peek to possibilities with this technology.

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