Interactive augmented reality window makes train rides way more interesting!

Using a Kinect, and iPhone, a projector, and a GPS module, a Japanese audio-visual group called Salad has turned a train ride into an augmented reality experience. As you sit on the train and watch as the world glides by, this window allows you to reach out and add things to the scene outside.

If you touch lower on the window, the object will appear closer to you, while the higher you touch places objects further away. You can place flocks of birds carrying a small child away, hot air balloons, and airplanes that fly past the train. The projector makes the images still mostly transparent, so you’re never covering up the actual scenery.


The project is called “Touch the Train Window”, and uses openFrameworks to place the images on the window with the help of the Kinect. Augmented reality projects and Kinect systems aren’t exactly strangers, but the added complication of tracking the moving environment on the other side of the window so the program knows to place the right object is undeniably cool. It’s a fun experiment in augmented reality, but really helps put into perspective how useful a display on something like a train window would be. To be able to use the window on a train or taxi ride as the display for interacting with services offered by the travel service.

Much of the technology is either already here or on its way. As transparent display technology increases in quality, the displays could start to function in the same way smartboards are used in schools right now. Pico projectors get smaller and more powerful every day, so even if the window itself wasn’t a display you could still use it like one. Looking at something like the Leap Motion controller, which would be much better at detecting subtle hand gestures on something up close like a window, the practical applications for something as fun as this project really aren’t very far away.