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Fundamentals of wearable computers and augumented reality : from the genome to the Internet
Barfield W., Caudell T., Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc., Mahwah, NJ, 2000. 797 pp. Type: Book (9780805829020)
Date Reviewed: Jul 29 2003

If you want a comprehensive survey of wearable computers and mobile augmented reality, this book is the best place to look. (Augmented reality on fixed computers is not really covered.) The editors in chapter 1 present the “basic contents in wearable computers (WC) and augmented reality (AR).” They give a general introduction to the area, and emphasize two major problems: information overload in WC and registration of the virtual image with the real image in AR. Chapter 2, “AR Approaches and Technical Challenges,” is by R.T. Azuma. This is mostly about the strengths and weaknesses of various kinds of headmounted displays (HMD), but it also introduces some applications, such as AR reconstructions for visitors to historic tourist sites. Chapter 3, “A Survey of Tracking Technologies for Virtual Environments,” is by Rolland, Davis, and Baillot. The emphasis is on tracking head positions, but techniques for tracking moving objects are also covered. Chapter 4, “Optical Versus Video See-through HMDs,” is by Rolland and Fuchs. This is rather technical, but it also presents some fascinating medical applications and honestly reports negative after-effects on surgeons using HMDs.

Chapter 5, “AR Using Affine Object Representations,” is by Vallino and Kutalakos. This describes one approach to solving the registration problem. Chapter 6, “Registration Error Analysis for AR Systems,” is by R.L. Holliday. It analyzes the errors inherent in the registration problem. Chapter 7, ”Mathematical Theory for Mediated Reality and Wearcam-based AR,” is by S. Mann. The mathematical theory is elegant, but only of interest to those convinced by subsequent chapters by Mann. Chapter 8, “Studies of the Localization of Virtual Objects in the Near Visual Field,” is by Ellis and Menger. It presents an ingenious apparatus for experiments in which an HMD user tries to localize the apex of a virtual inverted pyramid. Chapter 9, “Fundamental Issues in Mediated Reality, Wearcomp, and Camera-based AR,” is by S. Mann. It describes “personal imaging to augment the experience of seeing,” as well as several interesting applications of mediated reality (real world images are transformed before being combined with virtual images). Chapter 10, “STAR: Tracking for Object-centric AR,” is by U. Neumann. It contrasts object-centered AR with world-centered AR, and extended Kalman with RAC filters.

The book becomes less technical and more application-oriented at this point. Chapter 11, “Navicam: a Palmtop Device Approach to AR,” is by J. Rekimoto. This chapter describes augmented interaction, in which a palmtop reacts with activized real objects, like museum pictures. It convinced me that augmented interaction is a better solution for many of the problems being tackled by the currently popular ubiquitous computing approach. Nevertheless, the next chapter is my favorite. Chapter 12, “AR for Exterior Construction Applications,” is by Klinker, Stricker, and Reiners. It provides an excellent survey of ways to present planned constructions to decision makers and on-site constructors. It emphasizes the need for an appropriately detailed reality model to solve the key locality problem. It describes impressive construction AR examples, including the virtual London Bridge with reflection in the Thames.

Chapter 13, “GPS-based Navigation Systems for the Visually Impaired,” is by Loomis, Golledge, and Klatzky. It describes various navigational and obstacle avoidance aids for the blind. Chapter 14, “Boeing’s Wire Bundle Assembly Project,” is by D. Mizell. This chapter tells the story of the ten-year development of a pioneering AR project. Chapter 15, “Computational Clothing and Accessories,” is by nine authors. It describes fascinating applications ranging from shoe computers for cheating in roulette to smart watches and intelligent fashion accessories. Chapter 16, “Situation Aware Computing with WC,” is by five authors. It covers remembrance agents, recognizers of sign language, and the MIT patrol problem, and describes methods to recognize repeated event sequences like entering an apartment. Chapter 17, “Collaboration with WC,” is by Billinghurst, Miller, and Weghorst. This chapter describes the BTCom Net and remote expert assistance in Block Builder. Chapter 18, “Tactual Displays for Sensory Substitution and WC,” is by Tan and Pentland. It presents the state of the art in tactual displays, such as vests, that exploit the continuous rabbit illusion. Chapter 19, “From Painting with Light Vectors to Painting with Looks,” is by S. Mann. It presents innovative ideas like gigantic flash lamps, photojournalism, and under-wearable computers.

Chapter 20, “Military Applications of WC and AR,” is by nine authors. It surveys the multifarious military applications, including the US Army Land Warrior project and the WC soldier health monitor. Chapter 21, “Medical Applications of WC,” is by R.M. Satava and S.B. Jones. It describes both developing and existing applications like controllers for EKG and diabetics. Chapter 22, “Constructing WC for Maintenance Applications,” is by nine authors and describes the NUMAN Navigtor and other Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) student WC projects. Chapter 23, “Applications of WC and AR to Manufacturing,” is by Barfield, Baird, Skewchuk, and Ioannou. It describes systems for flexible manufacturing and quality assurance. Chapter 24, “Computer Networks for WC,” is by R. LaRowe and C. Elliott. It discusses the onbody-offbody distinction, and how these nets should be connected to the Internet. It presents GTE’s Bodylan, IBM’s PAN, and a system by which people can exchange information by shaking hands. Chapter 25, ”Computing Under the Skin,” is by Holland, Roberson, and Barfield, and describes many fascinating applications, like microchips for pets and chips for personal DNA code. It focuses on medical applications like cochlear implants, artificial retinas, breathing stimulators, body implants, pacemakers, urinary controllers, tremor suppressors, and even interfaces between brains and computers.

The book gives a good presentation of the state of the art in 2000, but does not help the reader to keep up to date by listing relevant journals, Web sites, and the like. Chapters on ethical and social questions would be welcome improvements to a future edition. In addition, I would like to have seen abstracts for all chapters.

Reviewer:  Brian Mayoh Review #: CR128064 (0311-1191)
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