MIT Wearable Gadget Gives You Sixth Sense, a la Minority Report

MIT Media Lab researchers have cooked up Sixth Sense, a wearable computing device that turns any surface into a Web interface, augmenting the five senses we've been given naturally. Want to organize photos or use a map that's on your hand, anyone?

By Diann Daniel
Mon, April 13, 2009

CIO — The wunderkinds at MIT's Media Lab (Fluid Interfaces Group) have developed a gesture-controlled wearable computing device that feeds you relevant information and turns any surface into an interactive display. Called the Sixth Sense, the gadget relies on certain gestures and on object recognition to call up virtual gadgets and Web-based information, in a way that conjures up the movie Minority Report.

Sixth Sense by Pranav Mistry, Pattie Maes and MIT's Fluid Interfaces Group
Sixth Sense aims to integrate information and tech into everyday life.

The team built the Sixth Sense $350 prototype using off-the-shelf components—a simple web cam and portable battery-powered projector with a small mirror—that are fashioned into a pendant-style necklace that communicates with a cell phone.

When might Sixth Sense hit retail shelves? There's no release date, and MIT Associate Professor and Founder of the school's Fluid Interfaces Group Pattie Maes calls it "very much a work in progress." (Perfecting the image recognition, for example, is an ongoing challenge.) Still, the MIT team says it has the potential to be made available today in a limited form.

Developed by Maes and MIT grad student Pranav Mistry (who Maes describes as the genius behind the gadget), along with the help of other MIT students, Sixth Sense aims to more seamlessly integrate online information and tech into everyday life. By making available information needed for decision-making beyond what we have access to with our five senses, it effectively gives users a sixth sense, says Maes.

Plus, it just looks fun to use.

So just what can you do with the Sixth Sense? Here's a sampling:

Make a call. You can use the Sixth Sense to project a keypad onto your hand, then use that virtual keypad to make a call.

Call up a map. With the map application you can call up the map of your choosing, project it onto a nearby surface, and then use your thumbs and index fingers to navigate the map, for example, to zoom in and out and do other controls.

Take pictures. If you fashion your index fingers and thumbs into a square (the typical "framing" gesture), the system will snap a photo. After taking the desired number of photos, you can project them onto a surface, and use gestures to sort through the photos, and organize and resize them.

Create multimedia reading experiences. Sixth Sense can be programmed to project related videos onto newspaper articles you are reading.

Call up e-mail. By gesturing the @ sign, you can call up and use e-mail.

Get flight updates. The system will recognize your boarding pass and let you know whether your flight is on time and if the gate has changed.

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