Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Pranav Mistry

Here is a write-up on him in The Hindu few days back:

The Indian genius researcher from MIT, who unveiled his futuristic ‘Sixth Sense’ project earlier this year, made a significant announcement at the first-ever TED (Technology, Entertainment and Development) conference in India.

Pranav Mistry told his spellbound audience that he would open-source his project (make the code freely available) in less than a month.

For months now, technology enthusiasts have been fascinated with his invention. His revolutionary project prototype promises to take computing to the next level, standing at the threshold of Web 3.0. Videos of Mr. Mistry clicking snaps with his bare hands, checking email on his palm or flipping through multimedia reviews while rummaging through a library shelf have been doing the rounds. Yet when this shy researcher took the stage and showed how his pendant contraption lets him use natural hand gestures to perform computing tasks that require hardware interfaces, the audience went berserk. In Mr. Mistry’s augmented world, any surface doubles up as a multi-touch screen and the world is his computer.

But why go open-source with it now, much before a product release or even spinning a revenue model around this out-of-the-world concept? “There have been many offers, but money means little to me. If this product could be taken forward and fuel greater innovation, that would be my reward,” he says in an interview to The Hindu. Swamped with corporate offers, he says he would be “most excited” if the Indian government was to approach him. “What could be a better way for me to take this technology to the masses!”

So is the product as simple as it appears? The apparatus comprises a small contraption that can be worn like a pendant around your neck, connected wirelessly to a simple smartphone in your pocket. This apparatus helps you carry the digital world with you, wherever you go, as Mr. Mistry says. The pendant holds a camera, mirror and powerful projector. The camera captures the physical gestures (users can customise it to understand different commands), sends the information to the mobile computing device for processing, and the output is projected. The downward-facing projector projects the output image on to the mirror, which reflects it on to the desired surface. Thus, digital information is freed from its confines and placed in the physical world.

In its current form, the project costs less than $350. A large part of this is the projector cost, and that is set to decline soon. However, cost is not the only issue. Before this dream-like product can be brought to India, there are hurdles to cross: the most important one is wireless connectivity is not a given factor in India, and smart phones are expensive.

Mr. Mistry, who studied at a Gujarati-medium school in Palanpur, Gujarat, attributes his innovative spirit to his architect father who built him his first video game. “Unlike other children, I did not get a branded video game. Mine was an open circuit that even buzzed.”


Mavin said...

Wow........that will be redefining all paradigms that we know and understand.

Swapna Raghu Sanand said...

Wow, I never knew about Mistry till i read this post. Thanks for sharing.