Augmented reality welding mask

There are so many good ideas crammed into this project its hard for us to believe this isn’t already widely used for critical welding applications. Traditional welding masks simply filter out light to protect the welder’s eyes. This mask doesn’t have a window in it at all. Instead, the mask includes two cameras on the outside and two LCD screens on the inside. It filters light by processing the video which lends itself to that grab-bag of features we mentioned earlier.

Possibly the best of the system is its ability to selectively filter the brightness of the weld. What this means is that areas outside of the welding arc appear at a normal brightness level, whereas before they would have been greatly dimmed. A demonstration of augmented reality is also shown, where a computer monitors the welding surface, giving the welder a target to follow and measuring the distance between the weld and the filament. The video mentions that an FPGA would be well suited for the image processing, making us think this could be produced at a reasonable cost. After all, they already use X-ray machines for some welds, we’d bet a set of these helmets could be supplied to a crew at a similar cost.

[via Reddit]

Comments

  1. Aaron says:

    On the downside, using this mask just once on a job site ensures that your life will be nothing but Vader jokes from now until the end of time.

    • nah! says:

      Vader had no head up display. he saw throu the force! you should ignore episode 3

      • Aaron says:

        What a thing to be pedantic about. But:

        It doesn’t take Episode 3 to figure that Vader had some sort of what we call “augmented reality” display technology built into his helmet. According to the Star Wars Visual Dictionary, which came out long before the prequels and which, per Lucasfilm, has the status of canon where it doesn’t contradict the movies, stormtrooper helmets have such technology built into them — see here, which lacks labels but is the best I could find at short notice. Note specifically the eyepiece displays, which lie directly behind the “eyes” on the outside of the helmet, and which are quite obviously more complex than would be required for any kind of simple optical system — besides which, they’re not actually pointing out the front of the helmet, which would cause some difficulty for the person wearing it if they were simple optics. (Oh, I suppose you could argue that they’re aimed at prisms behind the helmet “eyes”, providing a wider field of view than is normally available to the wearer, but considering everything else that’s obviously going on in that helmet — outside sound pickup and filtering, voice filtering and amplification, some sort of communications transceiver, breathing gas supply, &c. — to assume the eyepieces aren’t computer-driven is actually less parsimonious than to assume that they are.)

        Disregarding the prequel trilogy entirely still leaves all this canon in place. Granted that also leaves us without canonical knowledge of what’s going on inside Vader’s helmet — but, given that all of this technology exists in the first place, and given that it’s common enough to be built into every stormtrooper’s helmet, what sense does it make not to assume that something at least equally capable would be built into Vader’s helmet as well? (Especially considering that his armor contains a complete life support system, including artificial respirator, with all the computer support and stored power that implies. At that point, adding on an enhanced version of the stormtrooper armor’s sensor suite is probably pretty simple.)

        It’s also necessary to consider the effect of Vader’s injuries, and the prosthetics necessary to repair them, on his connection to the Force. I don’t have the references immediately to hand, but there are several places in canon where it’s mentioned that having to have limbs replaced, et cetera, reduces one’s ability to use the Force; as I remember it, various sources offer different causes for the effect, but all are in agreement with regard to the result; specifically, the further away you get from “all original parts”, the less capable a Force user you become.

        It would make sense from this angle as well that Vader should have a sensor suite built into his helmet; after all the injuries he suffered, and given the effect both of his prosthetics and of the life-support armor in which he spent the balance of his life after (ignoring the prequel trilogies, still) whatever nearly killed him and did damage him so badly as to leave him unable to breathe on his own for the rest of his life, he might well not be able to rely on the Force to make up for his lack of sight.

        There. Satisfied? (If not, I’d point out that you might actually be thinking of Darth Revan, who did see through the Force after being blinded — but, having only lost both eyes, he was actually in a lot better shape than Vader, and thus much more reliably able to use the Force to see.)

      • dave says:

        In general, it’s a good idea to ignore episode 1, 2, and 3.

      • Aaron says:

        Oops — Jerec, not Revan. The point stands nonetheless.

      • Ren says:

        There was a book (I scanned through it at Sam’s Club) about a year ago which had paintings and transparencies depicting Vader’s suit. It stated the helmet did augment his vision which was injured by the lava that also weakened his breathing, digestive, and immune systems. The suit was a life support system.

    • lejupp says:

      Dr. Zoidberg from Futurama

  2. Ren says:

    Oh yeah, it is such a hassle trying to start the bead with old fashioned dark lenses, and the newer reaction LCD ones have their drawbacks too! Now, will the cameras survive the intense UV and EMP?

  3. Jeff says:

    There are special welding cameras that are VERY expensive that handle this already. The cameras can definitely handle the environmental issues. I used some from a company about 5 years ago with a welding robot I programmed to do TIG welding of steam turbine shafts. I can’t remember the name of the company at this point.

  4. iamawelder says:

    Cool idea but not a chance i would put that much weight on my head and weld all day. Also comparing the use of non destructive testing using xray machines and justifying the cost of a helmet that provides little to no advantages is a poor comparison. Tradesmen don’t need lines drawn to fire in and weld a straight line amateurs do.

    Still cool just not practical.

    • Kaj says:

      I think the practical aspect would be as a teaching assist tool. Students could practice welding with a real-time “tutor” giving them instant feedback on their screw-ups.

    • Zee says:

      Tradesmen are not needed with this helmet. This will allow anyone to weld with really minimal training.

      • Mental2k says:

        MIG welding can be picked up in about a day with decent tutelage, obviously you’ll not be pro quality, but you’ll be plenty good for hobbyist purposes.

        Stick welding can be a bit trickier, learning to strike an arc through smoked glass can be tricky without sticking the rod to the piece. I’ve got pretty poor depth perception so feeding the rod in took a bit of practice for me, but I’d imagine it’s not too bad for most.

        TIG welding is beyond me at the minute, but then I have no access to TIG equipment.

        The biggest problem I had learning to weld was not blowing holes in the work piece. Once you have a sweet spot you’re laughing.

        All that being said don’t expect results like a master welder and don’t expect to be welding ally without a load of practice.

        It’s worth going on youtube and watching a pro stick welding, a hugely long bead and the slag just peels itself off as they go. Mesmerizing.

      • M4CGYV3R says:

        Everyone should start with Stick/TIG welding. It teaches proper hand stabilization and bead technique, with more obviously off results if you mess up. For example, it’s easy to see hot/cold welds and slag inclusions, etc. With oxy-acytelene and gas-supported MIG welding, it’s easy to blow the bead around or, as someone said above, blow holes in the work if you don’t do it just right.

      • Mental2k says:

        I completely agree, from personal experience MIG is a breeze after learning on an air cooled stick welder!

      • Ren says:

        Chuck Norris doesn’t need this helmet either, he welds metal by squeezing the pieces together with his fists.

      • JB says:

        @Ran:

        Chuck Norris doesn’t need to squeeze the metal. He stares the metal pieces down and they weld themselves out of fear.

      • JB says:

        This tech can be used for more than welding as others pointed out. I wonder if NASA isn’t already using something like this to “see” planets around distant stars, or look at nearby objects around the Sun, passing of comets, etc.

        Having it in a car’s windshield for night driving (I HATE HID lights) would be great too. Certain times in the day when the Sun is at a certain angle and it is in your face while driving would also make this useful (kill all glare)for anyone.

        This could also be used to debunk UFO sightings :P

  5. veneficus says:

    If they make a smaller version, it could be the last laser safety goggles you’d purchase too. It could even help with infrared lasers, which is not visible to human eye.
    Very cool indeed.

  6. Tom the Brat says:

    Comes with breathing sounds?

    • Ren says:

      Well, considering that some types of welding generate noxious fumes, a SCBA apparatus could be added. Some of Darth Vader’s breathing sounds were made by putting a small microphone in a SCUBA mask.

  7. Jeremy says:

    This is a really cool idea. Even if it is too expensive for the everyday welder, it would make a great training tool.

    Plus, the first time I saw it I was instantly reminded of the solders on Half Life 2. Bonus!

  8. Chris C. says:

    Yeah, there’d probably be some Darth Vader jokes. Followed closely by “I want one!” from other welders, and “let me try it on and look at the sun!” from everyone else.

    This is just a prototype. If it reaches the market (I hope it will and soon), it will be smaller/lighter/cooler. It must have some hardcore IR filters, so it would be nice if they are removable; allowing it to be used for other things like IR laser work as previously suggested.

  9. Shlomi Bernstein says:

    Already exists in research for ages…

    http://www.eyetap.org/~siggraph2012/

  10. james says:

    I want this for driving!

    I’ve always thought something like this would be cool for night driving. It could dim oncoming headlights and enhance your vision of dark areas of the highway. It could even incorporate night vision so that the dark areas (where animals jump out from) could be fully lit. Throw in some HUD for all your dash board info… and it would be awesome.

  11. Robot says:

    So, I do computer vision related FPGA stuff for a living. That does not make me an expert but I can say that what they have accomplished is impressive and novel.

    Yes, I would love a system like this in my car to eliminate glare.

    – Robot

  12. Haku says:

    I’ve seen various HDR images on the web that people have made of scemery and ‘artistic’ shots yet TBH they haven’t been that inspiring, but I think the technique of merging 2 or more varying exposure time images is really neat.

    This is perhaps the first real practical useful application of this technique I’ve seen and I’m suitably impressed. The idea of using it on cars is a good one too, because I’ve noticed over the last 10-15 years that car headlights have been getting steadily brighter and brighter.

    If you could combine HDR imaging with the smart headlight idea some boffins have conjured up it could be a real useful addition.
    Smart headlights – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Oi_m-ns9RA – basically a camera looks at the raindrops and a computer predicts their speed/trajectory which then uses a projector to shine light everywhere but where the raindrops are, making them ‘invisible’.

    • Whatnot says:

      Nobody is going to don a mask with cameras and LCD’s to drive a car, which also have a narrow field of vision or too low resolution, and would not know what you want to have the focus on.

      And I’m not even mentioning the cost.

    • Chzfish says:

      I like the smart headlights idea. I too have had the idea of a “auto dimming” windshield, i am constantly reminded of this idea when i head of advances made in OLED technology and now this!
      i thought that a OLED screen placed in the FOV of the person driving the car (ie: a visor that flips down) could dim oncoming headlights and the glare from street lights as well while not affecting the surrounding lighting because it is a transparent screen…maybe someday when i win the lottery i will make it!

      • Whatnot says:

        Now a a personal project it’s another thing, then I can see it.

        although it’s probably illegal to drive with a homemade system like that.

      • smilr says:

        Correct me if I’m wrong, but the big idea with OLED is that it is an active emitting display: you light up a miniature LED for the pixel you want to be non-black, closer to how CRTs worked. An OLED on a clear substrate would be able to light up a glowing HUD, but it can’t darken anything.

        LCD on the other hand, being a filtering / blocking display (a backlight is always on, you open a shutter in the LCD to let the color filtered backlight shine through.) could darken selective spots of a driver’s vision to do what you want, but not make a glowing HUD.

        Maybe combine both to get HUD and Filtering in your visor?

  13. Luk says:

    When I used to weld I set up a 1kW halogen light to lit up the work area from 20cm away. The procedure was: 1.Put the mask on; 2.Switch on the light; 3.Weld while seeing everything :-) I don’t know why more people don;t do it this way?

  14. Hirudinea says:

    Very nice, but I have two questions, could the mirror that reflects the image into the camera be made of some material that reflects visible light but absorbs UV and IR radiation, that would eliminate the need for expensive filters, and although its better, are two cameras absolutely necessary, it would be simpler with one.

    • DainBramage1991 says:

      2 cameras are required to preserve depth perception, which is absolutely necessary when welding.

      • Hirudinea says:

        Ok thanks, I’m not a welder so I wasn’t sure.

      • IamAWelder says:

        Depth perception isn’t really that big of a deal, sure it helps but its not necessary. I’ve welded plenty of things that I could only get one eye on, I’ve welded things that I can’t see by feel alone. I’ve welded things together using a mirror as it was the only way to see it. I also know welders that only have one eye.

        I’m telling you, this helmet serves no purpose in the field. You can make all the excuses you like about it being a teaching aid but I think you would only be cheating yourself. Also some earlier mentioned above that with a helmet like this tradesmen aren’t necessary….. hahahahaha. Right.

        Come see what an oilfield welder does for a day. You might be surprised at some of the things we have to weld and the conditions we have to weld in.

  15. Andy says:

    I’m pretty sure this is from the same guy that got kicked out of a Mcdonald’s for having AR goggles on. Glad he (they?) are pushing AR in such a wide range of fields!

    http://techcrunch.com/2012/07/16/augmented-reality-explorer-steve-mann-assaulted-at-parisian-mcdonalds/

    • Whatnot says:

      The funny thing is that mcdonalds uses facial recognition on their cameras to keep out unwanted people. Pot calling the kettle black.

    • Greenaum says:

      I have to wonder why Steve Mann went so far as surgically bolting his cyber-glasses to his head? Doesn’t he have ears, like the ones that keep my glasses on?

      I’ve seen Mann on the net thru the years, he’s always struck me as an also-ran (behind the MIT cyborgs), attention-seeking immature child. I can imagine he dreams of getting his arm cut off in an accident one day, for all the l33t stuff he could replace it with.

  16. eman says:

    And project has sponsorship from this guy Boss.

  17. mobbarley says:

    This kind of video tone-mapping in an FPGA has been around for quite some time for surveillance applications. I work with these cameras daily and the images produced are amazing.

  18. Teemu Hakala says:

    Very cool. The styling department has done its job well, and everyone thinking about Darth Vader have clearly need for eyesight correction. Yes, colour is similar but everything else is not.

    Just one Very Important Question: does it detect gorillas?

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