The Intel Labs Open Day here in Seattle usually comes up with a whizzy new interface or a mind-blowing wireless gadget. It was a bit strange, then, to find a trio of researchers playing intently with Lego – but then Lego Oasis is no ordinary plastic brick-based assembly system.
Instead of requiring old-fashioned imagination, Lego Oasis adds a layer of digital magic to plain old toys. Build a dragon and it will roar and breathe graphical fire. Put it next to a Lego house and see the flames crackle – then drive up a Lego fire engine to extinguish the inferno.
The most impressive set-up was a virtual train set. Put a Lego train in place, then drag your finger to create a train track. Press an icon to drop a station and drive the train up to load and unload passengers – all with live cartoon-style graphics and sound effects.
Video and infrared depth sensing cameras above the table are linked to a multi-core PC workstation running Intel’s real-time computer vision software Oasis (Object-Aware Situated Interactive System). A video projector then overlays the graphics on the physical objects.
Lego hasn’t signed up to sell Oasis playsets just yet although the companies are ‘in discussion’ (a Lego exec was hanging around the display looking quite excited). By the time it’s fully developed, Intel envisages the system working smoothly on a laptop or games console.
And don’t worry if your Lego dragons usually come out looking like aardvarks – Oasis can be taught to recognise new 3D shapes, however limited your building skills.