Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Augmented Reality App for Shelf Reading

Learned about something called the "Augmented Reality App for Shelf Reading" (hat-tip to Artem Russakovskii of

Watch this video:

It's a prototype app developed by the Miami University Augmented Reality Research Group, or MU ARRG for short.

From the video, you can see that the app is used this way:
  • The shelf-reader holds up the mobile device (a Samsung Galaxy Tab was used in the prototype)
  • The device's built-in camera reads and detects the item spine labels.
  • Items that are not in sequence are identified on screen.
  • By zooming in the camera to the "misplaced" item, the app displays the direction to shelve the item (left or right arrows) and is also able to identify the specific right spot.
  • In addition, the system is able to generate a list of books that have been "scanned".


It's only a prototype and not a finished product, but it's easy to see how the system can be refined into a more robust system. For instance, making it hands-free (maybe a flip-cam worn as part of a headgear, or shoulder-mounted, or mounted on a trolley and raised to eye level).

What's impressive is that the app runs on a mobile device rather than a laptop. Which means it's space-saving. Probably more energy-efficient as well, being able to run for longer time on a single charge.

It's also possible that the app could be programmed to detect specific titles on shelf (as suggested by Nick Pan)

I'm also reminded of this post that I wrote back in Jul 2006, where I mentioned about "wearable devices" and visual identification of library items.

More about the work of MU ARRG at their website

p.s. I can imagine a skeptic asking "What if printed books no longer exist?" -- well, that's besides the point and I believe books will still be around for at least another decade. Unless mobile devices become cheaper than a book.

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