Keiichi Matsuda, Creative Director and VP of Design at Leap Motion – not to be confused with Magic Leap – has taken to Twitter to show off the company's new Project North Star AR prototype. It's important to note here that the headset shown is something of a prototype and not a finalized product. Rather than being a consumer-facing unit, it's purpose seems to be to showcase what is possible with such a headset and the tracking software created by the company. That's because Project North Star is an AR headset that would feasibly only cost a manufacturer around $100 to build. Simultaneously, it tosses out room-tracking and other features in favor of more usable, real-time individual finger modeling and tracking. Moreover, despite that low production cost, it has a ton of other features that set it well above the current AR market and arguably make it high-end.
The headset is modeled after VR systems and is about the same size, owing to the fact that the company started with the highest specs possible and then worked down to a balance between cost and performance. It features two low-persistence displays with a reflective coating that allow for electronically controlled transparency to ensure the best image in all lighting. That's controllable thanks to ambient light sensors that allow for 360-degree real-time light approximations. Meanwhile, the two screens are set to a resolution of 1600 x 1440 and can display 120 frames per second, having a field of view amounting to about 100 degrees. All of that hardware links up with a 180-degree tracking sensor which, as mentioned above, allows for real-time hand tracking down to individual fingers. The results are impressive, to say the least, but Leap Motion doesn't stop there. The headset also features cameras to track a wearer's eyes and actuators that can move the displays in response to eye movements and eye convergence. Those move by as little as fractions of a millimeter to keep the depth of field properly aligned. Face tracking is included as well, while directional speakers provide auditory output.
The company hopes that this design and others it is working on will shift the focus of the next generation of AR manufacturers to the experience rather than the hardware aesthetics. To that end, it is making the entire package, both hardware and software, open-source. The idea is that by making the technology more available to everybody, there's a higher likelihood it will be taken advantage of in revolutionary ways. More directly, it opens the field of creation not just to larger companies but also to fellow startups.