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.