Augmented Reality Coming to Your Desktop Soon

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A Tokyo-based start-up has taken the wraps off new "augmented reality" software that allows the real world and computer imagery to meet on the desktop.

That's your actual desktop, not the Windows one. And it won't be a surprise to anyone that's spent time with computer graphics in Japan that this new world is inhabited by a cute, computer-generated girl.

Point your webcam at your desk and the software will display the image on your computer screen. Place a special cube with a 2D bar code on the desk in the center of the webcam's field of view, and the software will overlay the CG character, called "Aris" (say it like Alice), on the video image at the position of the cube.

Leave her alone and she'll tug at her blue and white maid's outfit, sit around and even appear to clean your desk if you're lucky.

But bring another coded cube -- mounted on a short plastic stick for easy use -- close-by and you can interact with the character.

You can poke her and annoy her in various ways and even strip her down to a skimpy bikini. She'll complain at this abuse but still comply, so if you're feeling guilty you can give her a present represented by another coded cube. She gets happier when she sees the present and positively adores you when she finds out it's a teddy bear.

The software transforms this real world of a few coded cubes sitting on your desk into the augmented reality world, visible through your computer monitor, where the computer-generated Alice is dancing around on your desk and interacting with you.

If you think stripping down CG characters to their swimsuits is a little low-brow for such technology consider this: the company showing the system, Geisha Tokyo Entertainment, was formed and is largely staffed by graduates of the University of Tokyo, Japan's top university, and this first software is more about exploring the market and perfecting the technology before they go on to tackle bigger entertainment projects using augmented reality.

"We don't expect to sell many of this but we hope it provides the base to go on to bigger and more famous characters," said Taisei Tanaka, CEO of the company during an interview at this week's Wireless Japan show in Tokyo.

Alice should be arriving in October in Japan and the company has plans to sell the software elsewhere, including the U.S. and China.

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