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Leap Motion Introduces Open-Source AR Reference Headset

Leap Motion is moving into the augmented reality industry, and it’s bringing fresh ideas with it. The company today revealed Project North Star, which is an augmented reality headset that offers a higher resolution, wider field of view (FOV), and higher refresh rate than any other augmented or mixed reality device we’ve encountered. What’s more, Leap Motion figured out how to build the headset for under $100, and it’s giving away the details to help fast-track advancement in AR headset development.

Leap Motion’s Project North Star headset features dual 1,600x1,440 “ultra-bright, low-persistence” displays that operate at 120Hz. The company said it had to develop custom LCD panels for the task because nothing on the market would satisfy the needs of its headset design.

Leap Motion said it first built a prototype with 5.5" 1,440 x 2,560 displays from the smartphone industry, which provided 105-degrees high and 75-degrees wide FOV per eye with a 60% overlap. Leap Motion said the result was a “luxurious” 105-degrees high, 105-degrees wide combined FOV.

Leap Motion refined its design to find a balance between field of view and headset size. The company settled for 95-degrees high and 75-degrees wide per eye with a 65% overlap, which results in higher than 100-degrees of horizontal FOV. Leap Motion said it tilted the view 20-degrees towards the ground, which allows the ground and your body to be within the augmented FOV.

The screens in Leap Motion’s Project North Star headset aren’t installed overhead like in the Microsoft HoloLens MR or the Meta 2 AR headsets. Instead, Leap Motion installed the screens on either side of the headset. The company uses ellipsoidal reflectors (curved mirrors) to direct the image to the headset wearer’s eyes.

Leap Motion built the ellipsoidal reflectors out of optical-grade acrylic, and it milled them with a vibration-free diamond-tipped lathe to create a precision, “optically transparent,” curved lens. The company then coats one side of the lens with a thin silver coating, which reflects 50% of light, and allows 50% of light to pass through, which enables you to see images on the lens while also seeing through the lens.

Leap Motion’s hand tracking technology is also a big part of the Project North Star reference design. The company’s early prototypes featured an external tracking device mounted to the top of the headset, but Leap Motion said the newest revision features tracking sensors embedded into the front of the headset. The existing prototype also features a top-mounted display driver, whereas the next iteration will include room for the Analogix display driver inside the device.

Unbelievably Affordable

Leap Motion said that cost was a priority for the Project North Star headset design. The company stuck with a bare-bones design to ensure the headset wouldn’t be cost effective. Leap Motion said that the design could be manufactured at scale for under $100 per unit, which means it could be marketed for under $200 and remain profitable. When you look at the $1,495 price tag of the Meta 2 developer kit and compare it to Project North Star’s cost, the gravity of what Leap Motion is offering here really comes into perspective.

Leap Motion isn’t planning to build headsets for the consumer market. Instead, the company plans to release what it knows so that anyone can use its design ideas to build marketable products. Leap Motion said that it would release open-source details for the Project North Star headset next week. Hopefully Leap Motion's AR initiative will gain more traction than the company's VR efforts, which never materialized.

  • 237841209
    They''ll probably try to get away with selling it for quite a bit more than $200 dollars. If it's under $200, I think a lot of people would be interested in getting into AR.
    Reply
  • therealduckofdeath
    *will be cost effective, I suspect you meant when you wrote it?
    Reply
  • computerguy72
    sigh.. 95deg FOV with their management referring to 105 degrees as "luxurious". These guys are just plain nuts.
    Reply
  • bit_user
    Not exactly the best looking AR headset... and this matters more for AR than VR.

    The other thing that's missing is any sort of processing. So, this is something you'd either have to use at a desk or with a backpack. $200 isn't a bad price for that, but consider that Lenovo can deliver a full, standalone 6-DoF VR HMD for $400.

    https://www3.lenovo.com/us/en/virtual-reality-and-smart-devices/virtual-and-augmented-reality/lenovo-mirage-solo/Mirage-Solo/p/ZZIRZRHVR01

    Lenovo is at least 90% towards a Hololens-beating AR solution, here.
    Reply
  • cryoburner
    20872022 said:
    sigh.. 95deg FOV with their management referring to 105 degrees as "luxurious". These guys are just plain nuts.
    It's worth considering the field of view of other augmented reality headsets. Hololens only has around a 17 x 30 degree FOV, comparable to looking at a 15 inch screen from about 2 feet (60 cm) away, and that costs thousands of dollars. Of course, you can view your surroundings outside of that area as well, it's just that the augmented imagery won't appear outside that box, getting cut off at the edges. The current Hololens would be unusable for anything intended to fill one's surroundings with immersive augmented content, but the FOV of this device seems far more useable for that purpose. And it's not like these headsets are primarily intended for things like immersive 3D games. They're more to add objects and overlays into one's surroundings, and for that, the FOV described here would likely be pretty good.

    20872076 said:
    Not exactly the best looking AR headset... and this matters more for AR than VR.

    The other thing that's missing is any sort of processing. So, this is something you'd either have to use at a desk or with a backpack. $200 isn't a bad price for that, but consider that Lenovo can deliver a full, standalone 6-DoF VR HMD for $400.

    https://www3.lenovo.com/us/en/virtual-reality-and-smart-devices/virtual-and-augmented-reality/lenovo-mirage-solo/Mirage-Solo/p/ZZIRZRHVR01

    Lenovo is at least 90% towards a Hololens-beating AR solution, here.
    I kind of think the appearance of this device doesn't matter so much, since it's likely intended more for home and office use. A Hololens isn't exactly something that fashion-conscious people would likely consider wearing in public either. It also looks like the headset in the top image is a prototype with exposed circuitry, rather than a finished product.

    And while it might be a tethered design, this is intended as an open-source reference, and onboard computing could undoubtedly be added. Or wireless transmission from another device, for that matter. I don't think their intention is really for people to be wearing this walking down the sidewalk though. It may be a bit bulky, but that's likely necessary with the technology available today at any semi-reasonable prices, at least when providing a field of view that covers any significant area. Leap Motion develops hand-tracking hardware, and this design is really just an example showing how that hardware can be used, in hopes of selling their components to manufacturers.

    And I wouldn't say that the Mirage Solo is nearly a "Hololens-beating AR solution", since they are rather different things. I don't think they could convert that design into something intended for proper AR with a see-through view of one's actual surroundings without almost completely redesigning the headset. It seems to be more along the lines of a mobile VR HMD, only with the smartphone hardware built into the headset itself, and some Windows "mixed reality" style tracking. Most of the Windows mixed reality headsets are only around $250 now, and hardware-wise the Mirage appears to be mainly just adding a smartphone circuit board and battery, while cutting out the capable hand-tracking controllers in favor of a single cheap 3DOF Daydream remote. If a Leap Motion headset could potentially be sold for $200, than it stands to reason that a similar level of onboard computing could be added to the design for around $400.

    I don't think that consumer AR is quite ready for prime time though. A lot of work would need to be done on both the hardware and software side of things to make people want to wear an AR headset much of the day.
    Reply
  • metathias
    The specs on this are nothing short of astounding for an AR solution.
    Reply