Small augmented reality elephant eating some Lego

Engineering students design €29 augmented reality headset

Image credit: Aryzon

Students from the University of Twente in the Netherlands developed the augmented reality (AR) headset – which works using a smartphone app – as an alternative to the far more expensive headsets currently available.

AR technology adds computer-generated visualisations, text or audio to our perception of our real-world environment. These enhancements are often interactive, and can provide extra information about our surroundings and the objects within it.

While AR technology has been available for many years, it did not reach mainstream prominence until 2016, with Nintendo’s enormously popular AR game Pokémon Go.

The cheap headset – designed by five industrial design engineering students – is named Aryzon. It is assembled from a flat DIY kit, and used in combination with a smartphone running a specialised app, much like the virtual reality Google Cardboard headset. Aryzon adds 3D visualisations such as holograms to the real world. The software can recognise the interaction of the user’s fingers with the 3D models, allowing features such as zooming.

How the Aryzon headset works

Aryzon

Image credit: Aryzon

A front-surface mirror and Fresnel lenses – compact lenses with a short focal length and large aperture – bring the visualisations into focus in front of the user’s eye.

The students say that the functionality of the headset is comparable to that of Microsoft’s €3000 Hololens. They hope that the headset’s affordability means that AR can be made more accessible, with use in education, e-shopping, interior design, and gaming.

“For most people, as well as for businesses, [thousands of euros] is not affordable,” said Leon Schipper, one of the engineering students behind Aryzon. “Museums, for example, will refuse to invest in augmented reality headsets for their visitors when they cost thousands of euros.”

“Our affordable solution makes augmented reality interesting and affordable to anyone with a smartphone.”

Anatomy lesson using augmented reality

Aryzon

Image credit: Aryzon

As part of their testing, the team took Aryzon to a primary school and asked the children to use the headset to control the movements of an elephant so that it could run or walk, and the prototype was well-received.

Now, the researchers are designing an associated platform in the form of an app and a website, which allows users to download and upload visualisations, then view them using the headset. They hope to bring Aryzon to market by raising €25,000 through a Kickstarter campaign.

Depending on the funding they receive, the students suggest that the platform could be optimised to become the “YouTube of augmented reality”.

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