Decoding Design

Could Canon's Mixed Reality tool change prototyping forever?

Posting in Design

Combining real and virtual worlds through a headset, Canon's MR System lets designers create a quasi-tangible early stage prototype.

Every product starts with a prototype, and prototyping can be a long, costly process. But Canon is launching a new visual tool called the MR (Mixed Reality) System that marries the physical and virtual worlds and could make physical prototypes a thing of the past -- or at least, it could greatly alter what prototyping means.

Canon is releasing this industrial design tool in July in Japan and its initial target customers are automotive manufacturers. The hope is that it will allow carmakers to save time and money in the early design process. Canon will also offer an SDK so that other users could benefit from the technology.

Virtual reality tools are powerful, but they can only render virtual images for the user. The MR System, however, mixes virtual images with physical images such that the user sees a blending of the two through a headset. For product design, this means that early modelling of a product can be done without building a physical prototype -- or at least not a complete prototype.

In the video below, people wearing the MR headsets interact with and sit in a concept car that largely exists in 3D-CAD only.

The virtual images appear in the user's line of sight through a video feed that moves through a prism and matches "the video cameras' optical axes with those of the light entering the eyes from the small displays," according to Canon. free-form prism featuring a unique three-sided configuration, the MR System produces beautiful images with low distortion in peripheral areas caused by optical aberrations.

Outside of product development, there is a long list of other potential uses for this technology:

  • Simulate the layout of a future manufacturing plant or other interior structure
  • Use as a teaching aid
  • Medical and surgical applications for visualizing anatomy or medical procedures

Here you'll find another, more promotional video from Canon. Note how the handheld controllers are used to manipulate the virtual images -- in this case, both the car frame and the car's components -- as well.

Via: Phys.org, Canon

Images: Canon

Mary Catherine O'Connor

Contributing Writer

Mary Catherine O'Connor has written for Outside, Fast Company, Wired.com, Smithsonian.com, Entrepreneur, Earth2Tech.com, Earth Island Journal and The Magazine. She is based in San Francisco. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure