New CSIRO lab to pioneer augmented reality research in Australia
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New CSIRO lab to pioneer augmented reality research in Australia

The CSIRO is promising to redefine industries and change the way people interact with digital technology as it opens a new Canberra laboratory to conduct research into augmented and virtual reality.

The agency's Data61 innovation group on Monday launched its immersive environments lab, which is part of the CSIRO's $100 million research hub on Black Mountain.

AR application developer Simon Malnar inside the CSIRO's Data61 immersive environment lab.

AR application developer Simon Malnar inside the CSIRO's Data61 immersive environment lab.

Photo: Dion Georgopoulos

The new lab is home to wearable holographic devices, spatial cameras, 3D object scanners, visual touch displays, interactive projection mapping stages and motion capture rigs, which researchers will use to develop new interactive computer graphics and imaging services.

Data61 senior research engineer and experimental scientist Matt Adcock said the new lab would pioneer augmented reality research in Australia, with projects underway to develop technology for use in industries including retail, agriculture, manufacturing, health and construction.

He said one of the projects already underway would potentially save lives by making it possible for emergency responders to "beam in" remotely to a scene and help provide first aid using virtual reality headsets and augmented reality glasses.

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"These technologies really get their strength from how well they understand the physical environment, which helps them deliver holographic data right where and when it is needed most,” Mr Adcock said.

The new lab is home to wearable holographic devices, spatial cameras, 3D object scanners, visual touch displays, interactive projection mapping stages and motion capture rigs.

The new lab is home to wearable holographic devices, spatial cameras, 3D object scanners, visual touch displays, interactive projection mapping stages and motion capture rigs.

Photo: Dion Georgopoulos

Some of Data61's augmented reality technology is already being put to use outside the lab, with tour guides at Sydney's Powerhouse Museum now using CSIRO smart glasses to incorporate holograms into their tours.

The smart glasses technology runs off a cloud-based system that is housed in the same building as the new lab, and is also capable of displaying real-time and historical energy usage data on appliances in what Mr Adcock said was just a snapshot of what was possible.

“Some smartphone apps already let users see, for instance, what furniture would look like in their own home," Mr Adcock said.

"But while the hardware is evolving at a rapid pace, the digital services that can run on that hardware are just beginning to be explored."

Several other virtual and augmented reality projects are already underway at the lab, including a look at how to create digital doubles of buildings and use X-ray vision to see through walls.

Researchers are also creating decision-making tools for traditionally physical industries like agriculture and manufacturing using analytics and data.

Data61 chief executive Adrian Turner said the new lab would put Australia at the forefront of the next big thing in technology, with the augmented and virtual reality industries set to be worth $142 billion by 2021.

“Augmented reality now is where the [World Wide] Web was several decades ago — on the cusp of broad adoption," Mr Turner said.

“The immersive environments lab will facilitate collaboration between industry, government and universities, which will reinvent our industries and create new ways of working and playing.”

Blake Foden is a reporter at The Canberra Times. He has worked as a journalist in Australia, New Zealand and the UK, and joined the Times in March 2018.

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