Everyone talking about what near-future AR device should look like, so I’d like too.
First possibility – videoglasses with camera + lightweight PC.
Dedicated wearable PC is out IMO, it’s a too hardcore staff.
Next close thing is a netbook. Netbook could be used both in its main capacity and as an AR platform. However the problem here is the weight. Somehow I don’t think average user would want to carry around 1kg netbook in the backpack, while using AR. Anything more light wouldn’t have enough processing power to track mid-resolution stereo cameras in real time. Nevertheless weight could be reduced.
Make display and keyboard detachable, use carbon fiber case and easily replaceable dual (or may be triple) batteries. If all this would reduce weight below 400g while keeping CPU above 1.5Mhz with 2.5 hours of full load battery life (5 hours with dual batteries) such netbook could be viable platform for AR with videoglasses.
Second possibility – handheld/smartphone. Here we have severe limitations on the battery/CPU/GPU. That’s why I don’t think high resolution display would be beneficial for such AR device. To process high-resolution images require a lot of CPU power. And with small size of display hi-res wouldn’t look much better then low/mid res. 320×240 is good enough , 400×320 is optimal probably. For the same reason 1 Mb camera is enough too, but it should be fast, preferably 60 fps, camera with high quality sensors, without any distortions and good for low-light conditions. I’m not sure about auto-focus. Slow auto-focus could be a problem. Accelerometers and compass would be good. GPS is a must. CPU – 600 Mhz at least, with hardware floating point. Lightweight GPU. Most important thing is API. Complete access to Image Processor (if present), Digital Signal Processor and raw camera data. That kind of API is not easily accessible on the most of the modern smartphones.
Actually if existing smartphones had such an API opened right now there would be breakthrough in the mobile AR already. Access to DSP could make image processing a lot faster.
Now would any such device allow real time AR like in the Coca-Cola avatar ad? Definitely no.
The bottleneck here is the battery IMO. We have to wait for some new future tech like carbon nanotubes
supercapacitors to see complete coverage AR.
Slashdot report Samsung showed prototype of colored E-paper based on the carbon nanotubes. Carbon nanotubes used as underlying electrodes, they are completly transparent and very thin. So we may be more close to AR holy grail – working active matrix contact lenses(Vinge’s Rainbow Ends anyone ?. Or at least good enough transperent see-through display glasses.