A PhD from Melbourne, Matt Kwan has launched a Kickstarter campaign for a cheap augmented reality head-up display called the Matt Hat. Taking advantage of a user’s own smartphone, the display functions as a cross between a Google Glass and an Oculus Rift, and is aimed at developers and hobbyists looking for a low-cost way to experiment with augmented reality.
The Matt Hat consists of a curved half-mirrored visor that attaches to a modified baseball cap. When a smartphone is hooked up, the information appearing on the phone’s screen is reflected off the visor and overlaid on the user’s field of view.
The hat’s designer, Matt Kwan, was studying a PhD in geospatial science when he realized that modern smartphones have all the features needed to build an augmented reality headset. “But the problem was, how do you make the image appear at a comfortable distance? It took me a few iterations and a lot of number crunching, but I eventually came up with some optics that worked reliably and were cheap to manufacture.”
A primary motivation was driving down the cost. According to Dr Kwan, “The jury is still out on the usefulness of augmented reality, so it’s a gamble spending $1500 for a Google Glass when it may turn out to be a dead-end technology. Being able to buy a device for $50 takes away a lot of the risk.”
Supporting the Matt Hat is an Android software development kit with sample applications and source code. A unique feature of the software is the Compact Augmented Reality Protocol (CARP), a wireless protocol allowing applications running on remote devices to be displayed on the hat. The protocol’s specification is publicly available, and could potentially be ported to other augmented/virtual reality headsets.
Currently in the Google Play store is a simple demo that shows the time, an artificial horizon, and the distance to various cities. But coming soon will be a Terminator Vision app, allowing a user to “see the world through the eyes of a Terminator”.
The Kickstarter campaign ends in early May, and the Matt Hats are scheduled for delivery late June 2014.
Image Source – kickstarter.com