Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Smart Goggles


The Smart Goggles that could make lost keys, mobile phones or iPod a thing of the past
14th March 2008

Smart goggles: The glasses that can remember where people last saw their keys, handbag, iPod or mobile phone

Those frustratingly frantic searches for mislaid car keys or mobile phones could soon be a thing of the past.

Japanese scientists have invented a pair of intelligent glasses that remembers where people last saw their keys, handbag, iPod or mobile phone.

The spectacles - which come with a built in camera, display screen and computer brain - can even identify unfamiliar plants or faces.

In fact, the only thing it can't help you find are your glasses.

The Smart Goggles are the brainchild of Prof Kuniyoshi at the University of Tokyo. He believes they could revolutionise the lives of people who suffer from regular "senior moments", as well as those suffering from serious memory problems caused by dementia.

The Smart Goggles contain a compact video camera which films everything the wearer looks at - and a viewfinder which fits snugly in front of the right lens.

The glasses are connected to a small, but smart computer processor worn on the back which can learn to recognise shapes extremely quickly.

To use the glasses, the wearer first wanders around a house or workplace for an hour or so, looking at the objects he or she may later want to find in a hurry.

Each time the camera focuses on a object - such as a set of keys, a mobile phone or a purse - the wearer says the name aloud. The name is then recorded and stored into the memory.

Once the names have been programmed in, the glasses will try to find the right name for any object they come across. The names appear in small type on the viewfinder.

If they are unable to recognise an object they make a guess and - if they get it wrong - learn from their mistakes.

At some point in the future, if the wearer is trying to find their keys in a hurry, they simply name the object.

The glasses search its video memory and show its last known location on the display.

In a demonstration at the university last week, the team were able to programme in the names and identity of 60 everyday objects, including a compact disc, a hammer, a potted begonia and a mobile phone.

Prof Kuniyoshi believes the invention could become a useful memory aid for the elderly. The technology could also be useful for people suffering from Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia.

The high speed, image recognition technology could also help develop robots - like the Terminator androids from the science fiction series - that have human like abilities.

And it could also be used as an educational tool. If given the right programming, it could allow wearers to walk through gardens, stare and unfamiliar plants and find out their names instantly.

More sophisticated versions could also help people who are bad at remembering names get through awkward social situations.

The invention does have flaws. It cannot cope with family members who insist on hiding or moving objects. And it struggles to cope with objects placed in unusual positions.

And the prototype version is still too bulky and obtrusive to use. However Prof Kuniyoshi said it should be possible to shrink the camera and viewfinder down to a more sensible, and fashionable, size within a few years.

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