Human senses evolved to adapt to the environments of the pre-historic age. Today, we live and work in an infinitely more complex space. More often than not human senses are inadequate to detect dangerous conditions, e.g. the presence of harmful radiation or toxic gases. Vision, the most developed human sense, may not provide the information about all obstacles in our three-dimensional surroundings. The inability to perceive potential hazards may, and often does, have tragic consequences.
Many sensors have been developed to aid in hazard detection and avoidance. Canaries were used to detect the lack of oxygen in mines, Geiger counters detect radiation, and systems of signals, mirrors and cameras help people see around opaque obstacles. However, use of these sensors is often cumbersome and slow. They are not integrated with the human senses and require special attention and interpretation.
Today, we have the ability to engage the human senses with artificially generated stimuli that are virtually indistinguishable from reality. Augmented reality is a technology that allows for a seamless combination of the real world and artificially generated stimuli. In a typical setting, a user wears a semi-transparent visor and is able to simultaneously see the real and the computer-generated, virtual, world. Perception of sound can be augmented in a similar manner.
The goal of this project is to bring together various technologies used to detect potentially hazardous conditions, combine the acquired data in a three-dimensional geometric database, and use augmented reality to present this information to the user. Such melding of different technologies would enable a unique integration of human senses and artificial sensors. The most valuable benefit of this integration will be an order-of-magnitude enhancement of human ability to perceive and detect hazards, to, for example, visualize radiation.