This Augmented Reality Flashlight Changes How You Interact With the World

Arvind Sanjeev
Arvind Sanjeev

Compared to sleek smartphones and augmented reality goggles, a flashlight looks pretty low-tech. But what if you used that familiar design as a vehicle for some of today’s most exciting technology? That’s what Arvind Sanjeev accomplished with Lumen. As Co.Design reports, the masters student at the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design has reimagined the handheld flashlight as a platform for augmented reality.

What sets Lumen apart from other AR products, like Microsoft’s HoloLens or even the apps on your iPhone, is the straightforward design. Most people know how to use a flashlight: Pick it up by the handle, click it on, and point the light at whatever you wish to see. Lumen operates on a similar principle, but instead of illuminating objects with light alone, it projects relevant information onto them that enhances the way users experience reality.

Using a built-in camera and a special algorithm, the flashlight can identify the objects in its path. Direct it at a stereo and it will project its own interface with dials you can actually use; point it at the ground and it can show an arrow leading you to your destination like a maps app. Developers can work with the interface to program their own responses to appear when Lumen lands on a certain item.

Lumen is also capable of impressive visuals tricks. It features a depth sensor that enables it to wrap pixels around 3D objects in a convincing way. Bring the light to a museum and it can change what you’re looking at by superimposing moving faces over portraits and statues. (Just try not to annoy your fellow museumgoers.)

Sanjeev claims that Lumen is unique in the mixed reality market: All other devices either rely on screens and headsets or they can’t be easily transported. “Lumen challenges this trend and explores how people can feel immersed in their natural space by merging bits with atoms,” he wrote on his website. By ditching the wearable hardware, Sanjeev believes he has created a more organic augmented reality experience.

For an idea of how Lumen works in the real world, you can watch the video below.

[h/t Co.Design]

Friday’s Best Amazon Deals Include Digital Projectors, Ugly Christmas Sweaters, and Speakers

Amazon
Amazon
As a recurring feature, our team combs the web and shares some amazing Amazon deals we’ve turned up. Here’s what caught our eye today, December 4. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers, including Amazon, and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Good luck deal hunting!

Google Is Tracking Everything You Do With Its ‘Smart’ Features—Here’s How to Make That Stop

Maybe you don't want Google seeing how many exclamation points you use in your emails.
Maybe you don't want Google seeing how many exclamation points you use in your emails.
Taryn Elliott, Pexels

Since we don’t all have personal assistants to draft emails and update our calendars, Google has tried to fill the void with ‘smart’ features across Gmail, Google Chat, and Google Meet. These automatic processes cover everything from email filtering and predictive text to notifications about upcoming bills and travel itineraries. But such personalized assistance requires a certain amount of personal data.

For example, to suggest email replies that match what you’d choose to write on your own—or remind you about important emails you’ve yet to reply to—Google needs to know quite a bit about how you write and what you consider important. And that involves tracking your actions when using Google services.

For some people, Google’s helpful hints might save enough time and energy to justify giving up full privacy. If you’re not one of them, here’s how to disable the ‘smart’ features.

As Simplemost explains, first open Gmail and click the gear icon (settings) in the upper right corner of the page. Select ‘See all settings,’ which should default to the ‘General’ tab. Next to ‘Smart Compose,’ ‘Smart Compose personalization,’ and ‘Smart Reply,’ choose the ‘Off’ options. Next to ‘Nudges,’ uncheck both boxes (which will stop suggestions about what emails you should answer or follow up on). Then, switch from the ‘General’ tab to ‘Inbox’ and scroll down to ‘Importance markers.’ Choose ‘No markers’ and ‘Don’t use my past actions to predict which messages are important.’

Seeing these settings might make you wonder what other information you’ve unwittingly given Google access to. Fortunately, there’s a pretty easy way to customize it. If you open the ‘Accounts’ tab (beside ‘Inbox’) and choose ‘Google Account settings,’ there’s an option to ‘Take the Privacy Checkup.’ That service will walk you through all the privacy settings, including activity tracking on Google sites, ad personalization, and more.

[h/t Simplemost]