Sony Patent | Information Processing Device, Client Device, Information Processing Method, And Program

Patent: Information Processing Device, Client Device, Information Processing Method, And Program

Publication Number: 20200043240

Publication Date: 20200206

Applicants: Sony

Abstract

There is provided an information processing device including an image acquisition unit that acquires a captured image of a real space from an image capture device, a setting unit that sets, in association with the real space, an augmented reality space that virtually augments the real space depicted in the captured image, the augmented reality space differing according to related information that relates to the captured image, and a control unit that causes an image of a virtual object placed for each user within the augmented reality space to be displayed on a screen.

CROSS REFERENCE TO PRIOR APPLICATION

[0001] This application is a continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 14/762,077 (filed on Jul. 20, 2015), which is a National Stage Patent Application of PCT International Patent Application No. PCT/JP2013/081407 (filed on Nov. 21, 2013) under 35 U.S.C. .sctn. 371, which claims priority to Japanese Patent Application No. 2013-018444 (filed on Feb. 1, 2013), which are all hereby incorporated by reference in their entirety.

TECHNICAL FIELD

[0002] The present disclosure relates to an information processing device, a client device, an information processing method, and a program.

BACKGROUND ART

[0003] In the past, a variety of virtual reality (VR) technologies that present an artificially constructed virtual space to a user have been practically implemented. For example, Patent Literature 1 proposes a technology for achieving phigh operability when a user operates an avatar existing in a virtual space. In contrast, augmented reality (AR) technology, which has become the focus of recent attention, presents to a user an augmented reality space (AR space) by partially modifying a real space. With typical AR technology, a virtually generated object (virtual object) is superimposed onto an image from an image capture device pointed at a real space, providing a user experience as though that object exists in the real space depicted in the image.

CITATION LIST

Patent Literature

[0004] [Patent Literature 1] JP 2003-150978A

SUMMARY OF INVENTION

Technical Problem

[0005] By using a user avatar as a virtual object in AR technology, an application is realized in which an AR avatar may be expressed. However, simply having an image of a real space as the background of the space in which an avatar is active does not sufficiently demonstrate the appeal of augmented reality.

[0006] Accordingly, the present disclosure proposes a mechanism for providing an appealing user experience that makes good use of the characteristics of augmented reality as opposed to virtual reality.

Solution to Problem

[0007] According to an embodiment of the present disclosure, there is provided an information processing device including an image acquisition unit that acquires a captured image of a real space from an image capture device, a setting unit that sets, in association with the real space, an augmented reality space that virtually augments the real space depicted in the captured image, the augmented reality space differing according to related information that relates to the captured image, and a control unit that causes an image of a virtual object placed for each user within the augmented reality space to be displayed on a screen.

[0008] According to an embodiment of the present disclosure, there is provided a client device including an image capture unit that generates a captured image by capturing a real space, a communication unit that communicates with a server device that sets, in association with the real space, an augmented reality space that virtually augments the real space depicted in the captured image, the augmented reality space differing according to related information that relates to the captured image, and a control unit that causes an image of a virtual object placed for each user within the augmented reality space set by the server device to be displayed on a screen.

[0009] According to an embodiment of the present disclosure, there is provided an information processing method executed by a client device provided with an image capture unit and a communication unit that communicates with a server device. The server devices sets, in association with a real space, an augmented reality space that virtually augments the real space depicted in a captured image, the augmented reality space differing according to related information that relates to the captured image, the information processing method including generating the captured image by using the image capture unit to capture a real space, and causing an image of a virtual object placed for each user within the augmented reality space set by the server device to be displayed on a screen.

[0010] According to an embodiment of the present disclosure, there is provided a program for causing a computer that controls a client device to function as an image acquisition unit that acquires a captured image of a real space from an image capture device, and a control unit that causes an image of a virtual object placed for each user within an augmented reality space to be displayed on a screen, the augmented reality space being set by a server device that sets, in association with the real space, an augmented reality space that virtually augments the real space depicted in the captured image, the augmented reality space differing according to related information that relates to the captured image.

Advantageous Effects of Invention

[0011] According to the technology in accordance with present disclosure, it is possible to provide an appealing user experience that makes good use of the characteristics of augmented reality.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS

[0012] FIG. 1 is a first explanatory diagram for describing an overview of an information processing device according to an embodiment;

[0013] FIG. 2 is a second explanatory diagram for describing an overview of an information processing device according to an embodiment;

[0014] FIG. 3 is a block diagram illustrating an example of a hardware configuration of an information processing device according to an embodiment;

[0015] FIG. 4 is a block diagram illustrating an example of a configuration of logical functions of an information processing device according to an embodiment;

[0016] FIG. 5 is an explanatory diagram for describing a coordinate system for an AR space;

[0017] FIG. 6 is an explanatory diagram for describing an example of the discretization of a real object;

[0018] FIG. 7 is an explanatory diagram for describing an example of an AR space constructed from a real space map;

[0019] FIG. 8 is an explanatory diagram for describing an example of the customization of an AR space;

[0020] FIG. 9 is an explanatory diagram for describing a first example of a technique for setting a texture or color of a virtual object;

[0021] FIG. 10 is an explanatory diagram for describing a second example of a technique for setting a texture or color of a virtual object;

[0022] FIG. 11 is an explanatory diagram for describing an exemplary modification of a technique for setting display attributes of a virtual object;

[0023] FIG. 12 is an explanatory diagram for describing for a first example of a technique for sharing an AR space among multiple users;

[0024] FIG. 13 is an explanatory diagram for describing for a second example of a technique for sharing an AR space among multiple users;

[0025] FIG. 14 is an explanatory diagram for describing for a third example of a technique for sharing an AR space among multiple users;

[0026] FIG. 15 is an explanatory diagram for describing an example of a display of an AR space shared by multiple users;

[0027] FIG. 16 is an explanatory diagram for describing an example of a user interface for specifying an object to share or not share;

[0028] FIG. 17 is an explanatory diagram for describing the setting of voxel granularity;

[0029] FIG. 18 is an explanatory diagram for describing an example of an avatar selection window;

[0030] FIG. 19 is an explanatory diagram for describing an example of a basic operation window;

[0031] FIG. 20 is an explanatory diagram for describing an example of an operation for moving an avatar;

[0032] FIG. 21 is an explanatory diagram for describing an example of an operation for stopping avatar movement;

[0033] FIG. 22 is an explanatory diagram for describing an example of an operation for changing the direction of an avatar;

[0034] FIG. 23 is an explanatory diagram for describing another example of an operation for changing the direction of an avatar;

[0035] FIG. 24A is a first explanatory diagram for describing a first example of an item-using action executed by an avatar;

[0036] FIG. 24B is a second explanatory diagram for describing a first example of an item-using action executed by an avatar;

[0037] FIG. 25 is an explanatory diagram for describing an example of an operation for switching an item used by an avatar;

[0038] FIG. 26 is an explanatory diagram for describing a second example of an item-using action executed by an avatar;

[0039] FIG. 27 is an explanatory diagram for describing a first example of communication via avatars;

[0040] FIG. 28 is an explanatory diagram for describing a second example of communication via avatars;

[0041] FIG. 29 is an explanatory diagram for describing an example of an operation for displaying avatar information;

[0042] FIG. 30 is an explanatory diagram for describing an example of an operation for changing the position of an AR space;

[0043] FIG. 31 is an explanatory diagram for describing an example of an operation for changing the orientation of an AR space;

[0044] FIG. 32 is an explanatory diagram for describing an example of several menus that may be implemented in an AR application;

[0045] FIG. 33 is an explanatory diagram for describing a real-time mode and a snapshot mode;

[0046] FIG. 34 is an explanatory diagram for describing the transition between two types of operating modes illustrated in FIG. 33;

[0047] FIG. 35 is an explanatory diagram for describing a blueprint mode;

[0048] FIG. 36 is an explanatory diagram for describing a camera perspective mode and an avatar perspective mode;

[0049] FIG. 37 is an explanatory diagram for describing the transition between the two types of display modes illustrated in FIG. 36;

[0050] FIG. 38 is an explanatory diagram for describing for a first example of a technique for selecting an AR space;

[0051] FIG. 39 is an explanatory diagram for describing for a second example of a technique for selecting an AR space;

[0052] FIG. 40 is an explanatory diagram for describing for a third example of a technique for selecting an AR space;

[0053] FIG. 41 is an explanatory diagram for describing for a fourth example of a technique for selecting an AR space;

[0054] FIG. 42 is an explanatory diagram for describing for a first example of adjusting variable parameters of an AR space;

[0055] FIG. 43 is an explanatory diagram for describing for a second example of adjusting variable parameters of an AR space;

[0056] FIG. 44 is an explanatory diagram for describing a first example of a technique for setting an initial position of a virtual object in an AR space;

[0057] FIG. 45 is an explanatory diagram for describing a second example of a technique for setting an initial position of a virtual object in an AR space;

[0058] FIG. 46 is an explanatory diagram for describing change in the number of avatars in an AR space in a normal mode;

[0059] FIG. 47 is an explanatory diagram for describing change in the number of avatars in an AR space in a replay mode;

[0060] FIG. 48 is an explanatory diagram for describing a trail mode;

[0061] FIG. 49 is an explanatory diagram for describing an example of a path for moving between AR spaces;

[0062] FIG. 50A is the first part of a transition diagram for describing an example of screen transitions for checking into an AR space;

[0063] FIG. 50B is the second part of a transition diagram for describing an example of screen transitions for checking into an AR space;

[0064] FIG. 51 is a flowchart illustrating an example of a flow of information processing for executing an AR application;

[0065] FIG. 52 is a flowchart illustrating an example of a detailed flow of the action determination process illustrated in FIG. 51;

[0066] FIG. 53 is a block diagram illustrating an example of a configuration of logical functions of an information processing device according to an exemplary modification;* and*

[0067] FIG. 54 is an explanatory diagram for describing an exemplary modification of a technique for determining virtual object placement.

DESCRIPTION OF EMBODIMENTS

[0068] Hereinafter, preferred embodiments of the present invention will be described in detail with reference to the appended drawings. Note that, in this specification and the drawings, elements that have substantially the same function and structure are denoted with the same reference signs, and repeated explanation is omitted.

[0069] Also, the description will proceed in the following order.

[0070] 1.* Overview*

[0071] 2. Exemplary configuration of information processing device according to embodiment [0072] 2-1. Hardware configuration [0073] 2-2.* Logical function configuration*

[0074] 3. AR space settings [0075] 3-1. Coordinate system of AR space [0076] 3-2. Constructing AR space from real space map [0077] 3-3. Customizing AR space [0078] 3-4. Setting virtual object display attributes [0079] 3-5. Sharing AR space [0080] 3-6.* Settings related to shared object*

[0081] 4. Virtual object operations [0082] 4-1. Operation window examples [0083] 4-2. Avatar actions [0084] 4-3. Communication using avatars [0085] 4-4. Operations on AR space [0086] 4-5. Other operations [0087] 4-6.* Various operating modes*

[0088] 5. AR community [0089] 5-1. Forming an AR community [0090] 5-2. Adjusting variable parameters [0091] 5-3. Setting initial position [0092] 5-4.* Various access modes*

[0093] 6. Process flow examples [0094] 6-1. Screen transitions at check-in [0095] 6-2. Executing AR application [0096] 6-3.* Action determination process*

[0097] 7. Exemplary modifications [0098] 7-1. Client/server linkage [0099] 7-2.* Simple real space recognition*

[0100] 8.* Conclusion*

[0101] <1. Overview>

[0102] First, FIGS. 1 and 2 will be used to describe an overview of technology according to the present disclosure. FIGS. 1 and 2 are explanatory diagrams for describing an overview of an information processing device 100 according to an embodiment.

[0103] Referring to FIG. 1, an information processing device 100a possessed by a user Ua is illustrated. The user Ua is holding up the information processing device 100a towards a real space 11a. The information processing device 100a is equipped with a camera (image capture device) including a lens pointed at the real space 11a, and a display screen. In the example in FIG. 1, real objects R10a, R11a, R12, and R13 exist in the real space 11a. The real object R10a is a table. The real object R11a is a poster. The real object R12 is a book. The real object R13 is a mug. The camera of the information processing device 100a generates a captured image by capturing the real space 11a. The display of the information processing device 100a may display a captured image on-screen. The information processing device 100a may be equipped with a controller (not illustrated) that causes an augmented reality (AR) application to operate. The AR application receives a captured image depicting a real space as an input image, and outputs an output image superimposed with a virtual object to a display. In the example in FIG. 1, a virtual object A11 is superimposed onto an output image Im11 as though the virtual object A11 were standing on top of the table R10a.

[0104] Referring to FIG. 2, an information processing device 100b possessed by a user Ub is illustrated. The user Ub is holding up the information processing device 100b towards a real space 11b. The information processing device 100b is equipped with a camera (image capture device) including a lens pointed at the real space 11b, and a display screen. In the example in FIG. 2, real objects R10b, R11b, R14, and R15 exist in the real space 11b. The real object R10b is a table. The real object R11b is a poster. The real object R14 is a pen. The real object R15 is a coffee cup. The camera of the information processing device 100b generates a captured image by capturing the real space 11b. The display of the information processing device 100b may display a captured image on-screen. The information processing device 100b may be equipped with a controller (not illustrated) that causes an AR application to operate. The AR application receives a captured image depicting a real space as an input image, and outputs an output image superimposed with a virtual object to a display. In the example in FIG. 2, virtual objects A11, A12, and A13 are superimposed onto an output image Im12 as though the virtual objects A11, A12, and A13 were walking on top of the table R10b.

[0105] In the example in FIG. 1, the virtual object A11 is an avatar of the user Ua. The avatar A11 is placed within an augmented reality space (AR space) set in association with the real space 11a, and may execute various actions. The user Ua is able to enjoy the AR application by viewing or operating the avatar A11 displayed on-screen.

[0106] The AR application may be used by a lone user, or by multiple users. In the example in FIG. 2, the virtual object A11 is an avatar of the user Ua, while the virtual object A12 is an avatar of the user Ub. In other words, an AR space shared in common with the AR space set in association with the real space 11a in FIG. 1 is set in association with the real space 11b in FIG. 2. As a result, the same AR space is shared between the user Ua and the user Ub. The user Ua may use the information processing device 100a to operate the avatar A11, while the user Ub may use the information processing device 100b to operate the avatar A12. The avatar A11 and the avatar A12 are also capable of interacting with each other. As a result, communication between users via the AR application is established. The avatar A13 may be an avatar of vet another user, or a character who acts autonomously according to some kind of algorithm (also called a non-player character (NPC)).

[0107] In this way, when a user avatar is used as a virtual object with AR technology, simply having an image of a real space as the background of the space in which an avatar is active does not sufficiently demonstrate the appeal of augmented reality. Accordingly, the various embodiments described in detail in the following sections realize a mechanism for providing an appealing user experience that makes good use of the characteristics of augmented reality as opposed to virtual reality.

[0108] Note that in the following description, when the information processing devices 100a, and 100b are not being distinguished from each other, these devices will be collectively referred to as the information processing device 100 by omitting the trailing letters in the reference signs.

[0109] In FIGS. 1 and 2, a tablet device is illustrated as one example of an information processing device 100. However, the information processing device 100 is not limited to such an example. The information processing device 100 may also be a personal computer (PC), personal digital assistant (PDA), smartphone, game console, portable navigation device (PND), content player, digital appliance, or the like, for example. In addition, the information processing device 100 may also be a wearable device such as a head-mounted display (HMD). Also, instead of the AR application operating on a client operated by a user, the AR application may also operate on another device capable of communicating with the client (an application server, for example).

[0110] <2. Exemplary Configuration of Information Processing Device According to Embodiment>

[0111] [2-1. Hardware Configuration]

[0112] FIG. 3 is a block diagram illustrating an example of a hardware configuration of an information processing device 100 according to an embodiment. Referring to FIG. 3, the information processing device 100 is equipped with a camera 102, a sensor 104, an input interface 106, memory 108, a display 110, a communication interface 112, a bus 116, and a processor 118.

[0113] (1)* Camera*

[0114] The camera 102 is a camera module that captures images. The camera 102 is a device captures a real space using an image sensor such as a charge-coupled device (CCD) or complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) sensor, and generates a captured image. A captured image generated by the camera 102 becomes an input image for information processing executed by the processor 118. Note that the camera 102 is not strictly limited to being part of the information processing device 100. For example, an image capture device connected to the information processing device 100 in a wired or wireless manner may also be treated as the camera 102.

[0115] (2)* Sensor*

[0116] The sensor 104 is a sensor module including a positioning sensor that measures the geographical position of the information processing device 100. For example, the positioning sensor may receive Global Positioning System (GPS) signals to measure latitude, longitude, and altitude, or measure position on the basis of wireless signals transmitted and received to and from wireless access points. Furthermore, the sensor 104 may also include other types of sensors, such as an acceleration sensor and a gyroscopic sensor. Sensor data generated by the sensor 104 may be used for various applications, such as to assist in recognition of a real space, to acquire specialized data for a geographic position, or to detect user input.

[0117] (3)* Input Interface*

[0118] The input interface 106 is an input device used in order for a user to operate the information processing device 100 or input information into the information processing device 100. The input interface 106 may include a touch sensor that detects touches performed by a user on the screen of the display 110 (or a case surface on the opposite side of the screen), for example. Instead of (or in addition to) the above, the input interface 106 may also include other types of input devices, such as buttons, switches, a keypad, or a pointing device. In addition, the input interface 106 may also include a speech input module that recognizes speech commands uttered by the user as user input, or a gaze detection module that detects the direction of the user’s gaze as user input.

[0119] (4)* Memory*

[0120] The memory 108 is realized with a storage medium such as semiconductor memory or a hard disk, and stores programs and data used in processing by the information processing device 100. Data stored by the memory 108 may include captured image data, sensor data, and various data inside the data storage unit discussed later. Note that some of the programs and data described in this specification may also be acquired from an external data source (such as a data server, network storage, or externally attached memory, for example), rather than being stored in the memory 108.

[0121] (5)* Display*

[0122] The display 110 is a display module that includes a display such as a liquid crystal display (LCD), an organic light-emitting diode (OLED), or a cathode ray tube (CRT). The display 110 is used to display AR application images generated by the information processing device 100, for example. Note that the display 110 is likewise not strictly limited to being part of the information processing device 100. For example, an image display device connected to the information processing device 100 in a wired or wireless manner may also be treated as the display 110.

[0123] (6)* Communication Unit*

[0124] The communication interface 112 is a communication interface that mediates communication between the information processing device 100 and another device. The communication interface 112 supports an arbitrary wireless communication protocol or wired communication protocol, and establishes a communication connection with another device.

[0125] (7)* Bus*

[0126] The bus 116 connects the camera 102, the sensor 104, the input interface 106, the memory 108, the display 110, the communication interface 112, and the processor 118 to each other.

[0127] (8)* Controller*

[0128] The processor 118 may correspond to a central processing unit (CPU), a digital signal processor (DSP), or the like. The processor 118 causes various functions of the information processing device 100 described later to operate by executing a program stored in the memory 108 or another storage medium.

[0129] [2-2. Logical Function Configuration]

[0130] FIG. 4 is a block diagram illustrating an exemplary configuration of logical functions realized by the memory 108 and the processor 118 of the information processing device 100 illustrated in FIG. 3. Referring to FIG. 4, the information processing device 100 is equipped with an image acquisition unit 120, a data acquisition unit 130, an AR processing unit 140, and a data storage unit 160. The AR processing unit 140 includes a recognition unit 142, an AR space setting unit 144, and an object control unit 146.

[0131] (1)* Image Acquisition Unit*

[0132] The image acquisition unit 120 acquires captured images depicting a real space from the camera 102 as input images. Input images acquired by the image acquisition unit 120 are typically respective frames constituting a video. The image acquisition unit 120 outputs acquired input images to the AR processing unit 140.

[0133] (2)* Data Acquisition Unit*

[0134] The data acquisition unit 130 acquires data used in order for the AR processing unit 140 to cause the AR application to operate. For example, the data acquisition unit 130 acquires sensor data generated by the sensor 104, and external data received from an external device via the communication interface 112. The respective data inside the data storage unit 160 described later may be stored in advance by the information processing device 100, or dynamically received from an external device.

[0135] (3)* Recognition Unit*

[0136] The recognition unit 142 recognizes real objects depicted in an input image input from the image acquisition unit 120, and generates a real space map 164 that expresses the position and orientation of each recognized real object in the real space. In addition, the recognition unit 142 also recognizes the position and orientation of the information processing device 100 (camera 102). The recognition unit 142 may, for example, recognize the three-dimensional position and orientation of real objects and the information processing device 100 according to an established image recognition algorithm such as the structure from motion (SfM) technique of the simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) technique. As an example, JP 2011-159162A discloses a technique for dynamically constructing a real space map (environment map) by utilizing the SLAM technique. By applying such a technique, the recognition unit 142 is able to recognize the three-dimensional position and orientation of real objects and the information processing device 100 in real-time, and generate a real space map 164. Otherwise, the recognition unit 142 may also recognize the relative position and orientation of real objects with respect to the information processing device 100, on the basis of depth data from a depth sensor which may be additionally provided in the camera 102. The recognition unit 142 may also execute a recognition process on the basis of output data from an environment recognition system, such as an infrared ranging system or a motion capture system. The recognition unit 142 causes the data storage unit 160 to store the real space map 164, which may be updated every time a new input image is input.

[0137] (4)* AR Space Setting Unit*

[0138] The AR space setting unit 144 sets an augmented reality space (AR space) that virtually augments a real space depicted in an input image. In the present embodiment, an AR space is a three-dimensional space set in association with a real space. The avatars and other virtual objects described using FIGS. 1 and 2 are placed within an AR space set by the AR space setting unit 144, and conduct various actions within the AR space. Since an AR space is set in association with a real space, even if the angle of view of the camera 102 changes, for example, it is still possible to present a display in which a virtual object appears to remain at the same position within the real space, or a display in which an avatar appears to move over the surface of a real object. The AR space setting unit 144 generates or acquires an AR space model 166 that expresses an AR space to set, and causes the data storage unit 160 to store the AR space model 166.

[0139] In a working example, the AR space setting unit 144 generates an AR space model 166 by discretizing, in units of voxels, real objects within a real space depicted in an input image (for example, respective objects expressed by a real space map 164). A voxel is a unit element having volume. Ordinarily, small three-dimensional cubic blocks may be used as voxels. In another working example, the AR space setting unit 144 acquires an AR space model 166 generated on the basis of another user’s captured image as external data. The AR space expressed by the AR space model 166 may differ depending on related information that relates to a captured image. Various techniques for setting such an AR space will be further described later.

[0140] In an AR space model 166, virtual objects that correspond to real objects within a real space discretely express, for example, the shapes of those real objects in units of voxels. The AR space setting unit 144 may set display attributes of these virtual objects (such as texture and color, for example) according to various conditions. Various conditions for setting display attributes of virtual objects will be further described later.

[0141] (5)* Object Control Unit*

[0142] The object control unit 146 places virtual objects within an AR space, and causes placed virtual objects to be displayed on-screen. The virtual objects placed by the object control unit 146 include user avatars as described using FIGS. 1 and 2. In addition, the virtual objects may also include objects that differ from avatars (such as message objects for chat or other communication, or autonomously acting characters, for example). The object control unit 146 may also place an avatar or character at a place on a horizontal plane expressed by the AR space model 166, for example. Also, the object control unit 146 may place a virtual object related to some real object near that real object. Typically, the object control unit 146 places each virtual object so that the virtual objects do not interfere with each other. Herein, interference refers to two or more virtual objects occupying the same volumetric element within an AR space (and may also be expressed as object collision). For example, if an avatar interferes with a virtual object that corresponds to a real object, an unnatural display may be presented in an output image, in which the avatar appears to be sunk into the real object. The avoidance of such interference between objects will be further described later.

[0143] In the case in which a virtual object placed within an AR space is operable by a user, the object control unit 146 determines an action for that virtual object according to user input. Also, the object control unit 146 determines an action for an autonomously acting virtual object according to some kind of autonomous control algorithm (or artificial intelligence (AI)). The object control unit 146 then causes the virtual object to execute the determined action. Various user interfaces by which a user operates a virtual object (an avatar, for example) will be further described later.

[0144] The object control unit 146, on the basis of an input image input from the image acquisition unit 120 and user input, dynamically updates the state of one or more virtual objects within an AR space set by the AR space setting unit 144, and generates image of virtual objects. Images of respective virtual objects may be generated according to a pinhole model, on the basis of the position and orientation of the camera 102, as well as the position of orientation of each virtual object within the AR space, for example. The object control unit 146 then causes an image of a real space with the virtual object images superimposed (an output image) to be displayed on the screen of the display 110. As a result of the output image being dynamically updated in this way, an on-screen display may be realized in which a real space appears to be augmented by virtual objects.

[0145] (6)* Data Storage Unit*

[0146] The data storage unit 160 stores real object data 162, a real space map 164, an AR space model 166, and virtual object data 168.

[0147] The real object data 162 is data defining features of real objects that may exist in a real space. The real object data 162 may define a shape, size, and texture for individual real objects, or include image features for individual real objects, for example. The real object data 162 may be used in order for the recognition unit 142 to recognize a real object depicted in a captured image, for example.

[0148] The real space map 164 is data that expresses a position and orientation within a real space for individual real objects recognized by the recognition unit 142. The real space map 164 may be referenced when the AR space setting unit 144 sets an AR space, for example. The position and orientation of the camera 102 may be additionally expressed by the real space map 164.

[0149] The AR space model 166 is data that expresses an AR space set by the AR space setting unit 144. The AR space model 166 may be referenced when the object control unit 146 places a virtual object in an AR space, or determines an action for a virtual object, for example. The AR space model 166 may also include data expressing the position and orientation of each placed virtual object.

[0150] The virtual object data 168 is data defining features of virtual objects that may be placed in an AR space. For example, the virtual object data 168 defines a nickname, appearance, and types of executable actions for avatars selected by individual users. In addition, the virtual object data 168 may also define an appearance and types of executable actions for virtual objects that differ from avatars. The virtual object data 168 likewise may be referenced when the object control unit 146 places a virtual object in an AR space, or determines an action for a virtual object, for example.

[0151] Details of an AR application that may be realized by such an information processing device 100 will be further described in the next section.

[0152] <3. AR Space Settings>

[0153] In this section, various techniques for setting an AR space in association with a real space will be described.

[0154] [3-1. Coordinate System of AR Space]

[0155] The position and orientation of a virtual object is expressed in a coordinate system of an AR space (hereinafter called the AR coordinate system). The AR coordinate system may be the same as a coordinate system used in order to express the position and orientation of a real object in the real space map 164. The AR coordinate system may be set according to some real object depicted in an input image, or set according to a horizontal plane which may be estimated from sensor data.

[0156] As an example, a real object that is captured when the user starts the AR application is designated a reference object. The AR coordinate system may be set with reference to the position and orientation of a reference object recognized by the recognition unit 142. Referring to FIG. 5, a real object R11a is illustrated. The real object R11a is a poster with the letter “A” written thereon. Herein, the real object R11a is used as a reference object. The X-Y-Z coordinate system illustrated in FIG. 5 is set according to the position and orientation of the reference object R11a. This X-Y-Z coordinate system may be used as the AR coordinate system. The scale of the AR coordinate system may be set to match the size of the reference object R11a. Note that in the case in which a real space is recognized according to the SLAM technique discussed earlier, after capturing a reference object in the initial stage of recognition, it is possible to continue recognition of the real space without losing track of the AR coordinate system, even if the reference object moves outside the angle of view.

[0157] [3-2. Constructing AR Space from Real Space Map]

[0158] In a working example, the AR space setting unit 144 constructs an AR space by discretizing, in units of voxels as discussed earlier, individual real objects within a real space map 164 generated by the recognition unit 142, for example.

[0159] FIG. 6 is an explanatory diagram for describing an example of the discretization of a real object. Referring to the upper part of FIG. 6, a real object R12 existing on the surface of a real object R10a is illustrated. The position and orientation (P12, W12) of the real object R12 in the AR coordinate system is stated in the real space map 164 as a result of a recognition process executed by the recognition unit 142. The shape and size of the real object R12 may be predefined by the real object data 162. Consequently, the AR space setting unit 144 computes spatial boundaries of the real object R12 on the basis of the position, orientation, shape, and size of the real object R12, and is able to determine a range of voxels that the real object R12 occupies.

[0160] In the lower part of FIG. 6, a virtual object V12 corresponding to the set of voxels occupied by the real object R12 is illustrated. For example, since at least half the volume of the voxel VX1 is inside the spatial boundaries of the real object R12, the voxel VX1 constitutes part of the virtual object V12. On the other hand, since the voxel VX2 is outside the spatial boundaries of the real object R12, the voxel VX2 does not constitute part of the virtual object V12. The question of whether or not each voxel constitutes part of a real object may be expressed by one bit of information for each voxel, for example. In this way, discretizing real objects in units of voxels and distinguishing voxels occupied by a real object and unoccupied voxels in the AR space model 166 yields various merits when handling the AR space. These merits will be further described later.

[0161] FIG. 7 is an explanatory diagram for describing an example of an AR space constructed from a real space map. In the upper part of FIG. 7, a real space map which may be generated by the recognition unit 142 for the real space 11a described using FIG. 1 is conceptually illustrated. This real space map includes the position and orientation (P10, W10) of a real object R10a, the position and orientation (P11, W11) of a real object R11a, the position and orientation (P12, W12) of a real object R12, and the position and orientation (P13, W13) of a real object R13. In the lower part of FIG. 7, an AR space model M10 which may be generated by discretizing a real space map for the real space 11a is conceptually illustrated. The AR space model M10 distinguishes voxels that are spatially occupied by the real objects R10a, R11a, R12, and R13. The virtual object V10a corresponds to the real object R10a, the virtual object V11a to the real object R11a, the virtual object V12 to the real object R12, and the virtual object V13 to the real object R13, respectively. Such an AR space model may be used in order to control the actions of avatars and other virtual objects within the AR space.

[0162] Note that a real space map and an AR space model may each be generated on the basis of a cumulative recognition result using multiple input images. In other words, during the phase in which an AR space is constructed, a single user may move the angle of view of the camera 102 so as to scan the nearby real space, and thereby generate a real space map and an AR space model over a wide spatial range recognized over multiple frames. Otherwise, a real space map and an AR space model over a wide spatial range may also be cooperatively generated from multiple input images of a real space captured in parallel by multiple users.

[0163] [3-3. Customizing AR Space]

[0164] An AR space may also be customized by a user from the state of being constructed by discretizing a real space. FIG. 8 is an explanatory diagram for describing an example of the customization of an AR space. Referring to FIG. 8, the AR space model M10 illustrated in the lower part of FIG. 7 is again illustrated. However, in the example in FIG. 8, the AR space model M10 includes a virtual object V16 and a hollow H17. The virtual object V16 is a set of virtual blocks, and does not correspond to a real object. The voxels occupied by the virtual object V16 likewise may be distinguished by the AR space model M10. An example of a user interface for adding virtual blocks will be further described later. The hollow H17 is voxels that should have been occupied by a real object, and corresponds to voxels at which a real object does not exist. If such customization of an AR space is enabled, it becomes possible for a user to independently construct a field for a game or a field for communication with other users, according to his or her own intentions. For example, in a field for a competitive multiplayer game, the virtual object V16 may become an obstacle, while the hollow H17 may become a pitfall.

[0165] [3-4. Setting Virtual Object Display Attributes]

[0166] The AR space setting unit 144 may set display attributes of a virtual object corresponding to a real object in the AR space model 166 according to various conditions. Display attributes of a virtual object which may be set by the AR space setting unit 144 may include the texture and color of the virtual object. Hereinafter, several examples of techniques for setting display attributes of a virtual object corresponding to a real object will be described.

[0167] (1)* First Example*

[0168] FIG. 9 is an explanatory diagram for describing a first example of a technique for setting a texture or color of a virtual object. In the first example, the AR space setting unit 144 sets the texture or color of each virtual object corresponding to each real object on the basis of the texture or color of that real object. In the upper part of FIG. 9, a real object R12 is illustrated. The real object R12 is a book, and a pattern is drawn on the cover. On the sides of the real object R12, the edges of stacked pages are visible. The AR space setting unit 144 sets the texture or color of the surface of a virtual object V12 corresponding to such a real object R12, on the basis of the texture or color of the real object R12, which may be acquired from an input image. In the lower part of FIG. 9, a virtual object V12 with applied texture or color is illustrated. In the example in FIG. 9, the texture or color is determined for each voxel face. Note that the texture or color of a virtual object may also be determined for each object, or for each face of a virtual object. According to such a technique, the appearance of a discretized virtual object will resemble the appearance of the corresponding real object, thus enabling a user to easily ascertain the conditions of the real space in an output image, even in the case in which a corresponding virtual object is displayed instead of a real object.

[0169] (2)* Second Example*

[0170] FIG. 10 is an explanatory diagram for describing a second example of a technique for setting a texture or color of a virtual object. In the second example, the AR space setting unit 144 sets the texture or color of each virtual object corresponding to each real object on the basis of the texture or color of a reference object. In the upper part of FIG. 10, real objects R12 and R19 are illustrated. The real object R12 is a book. The real object R19 is a beverage can. From between these two real objects, assume that the real object R19 is a reference object. The AR space setting unit 144 sets the texture or color of the surface of a virtual object V12 corresponding to the real object R12, on the basis of the texture or color of the reference object R19. In the lower part of FIG. 10, a virtual object V12 with applied texture is illustrated. In the example in FIG. 10, the texture of the virtual object V12 indicates an appearance that resembles the appearance of the reference object R19. According to such a technique, it becomes possible to provide a special AR space, such as one in which the space of a user’s room is decorated with the appearance of a specific real object captured by the user. Also, a company planning a marketing campaign for a specific product may also provide an AR application that uses the product as a reference object. In such a case, a user’s nearby space is decorated with the appearance of the product’s packaging or logo, thereby heightening the user’s awareness of the product, and potentially enticing a user’s willingness to buy.

[0171] (3)* Exemplary Modification*

[0172] FIG. 11 is an explanatory diagram for describing an exemplary modification of a technique for setting display attributes of a virtual object. Herein, the AR space setting unit 144 sets an appearance type of each virtual object corresponding to each real object on the basis of topographical parameters of that real object. Topographical parameters of a real object may include the horizontal width, the height from some reference surface, and the position of the real object, for example. In the upper part of FIG. 11, real objects R12 and R13 are illustrated. The real object R12 has a width above a first threshold and a height above a second threshold. The real object R13 has a width below the first threshold and a height above the second threshold. The AR space setting unit 144, on the basis of such topographical parameters, sets the appearance type of a virtual object V12 corresponding to the real object R12 to a mountain. Also, the AR space setting unit 144 sets the appearance type of a virtual object V13 corresponding to the real object R13 to a tree. The AR space setting unit 144 may also respective set the appearance type of an area having a height equal to the reference surface to the ground, and set the appearance type of an area having a height lower than the reference surface to a water surface. With such a technique, it is possible to provide a user with a special AR space in which the user’s nearby space appears to be decorated with a natural landscape.

[0173] [3-5. Sharing AR Space]

[0174] An AR space constructed with a technique like those described up to this point may be utilized in order for a single user to enjoy an AR application, or utilized in order for multiple users to communicate via virtual objects such as avatars. In the latter case, simply having multiple users respectively and individually construct AR spaces does not result in those AR spaces being shared. Accordingly, in this section, several examples of techniques for sharing an AR space among multiple users will be described.

[0175] (1)* First Example*

[0176] FIG. 12 is an explanatory diagram for describing for a first example of a technique for sharing an AR space among multiple users. In the first example, in the case in which an AR space is shared by multiple users, the AR space setting unit 144 applies, to each of the multiple users, an AR space set on the basis of a captured image from a parent user from among those multiple users. FIG. 12 illustrates users Ua, Ub, and Uc. Among these users, the user Ua is a parent user, while the users Ub and Uc are child users. The AR space model M11 is a model expressing an AR space set on the basis of a captured image from the parent user Ua (hereinafter called the parent AR space model). The parent AR space model M11 may be generated by discretizing a real space near the parent user Ua, for example. Subsequently, the parent AR space model M11 is respectively delivered to the devices of the child users Ub and Uc from the device of the parent user Ua or an application server. The AR space setting unit 144 of an information processing device 100 on the child user side references the parent AR space model acquired via the data acquisition unit 130, and sets the AR space expressed by the parent AR space model in association with a real space depicted in an input image acquired by the image acquisition unit 120. According to such a technique, it becomes possible to realize an AR application in which the avatar of a child user appears to visit the room of a selected parent user, for example.

[0177] (2)* Second Example*

[0178] FIG. 13 is an explanatory diagram for describing for a second example of a technique for sharing an AR space among multiple users. In the second example, in the case in which an AR space is shared by multiple users, the AR space setting unit 144 forms a single AR space by merging multiple, user-specific AR spaces which are respectively constructed on the basis of captured images from those multiple users. The AR space setting unit 144 may merge multiple, user-specific AR spaces by calculating the sum of the multiple, user-specific AR spaces in units of voxels. FIG. 13 illustrates users Ua and Ub. The users Ua and Ub are mutual peer users. In the upper-left of FIG. 13, there is illustrated a user-specific AR space model M21 expressing a user-specific AR space constructed by discretizing a real space near the user Ua. In the upper-right of FIG. 13, there is illustrated a user-specific AR space model M22 expressing a user-specific AR space constructed by discretizing a real space near the user Ub. The user-specific AR space models M21 and M22 are merged on the devices of the users Ua and Ub or on an application server to form a single merged AR space model M23. In the example in FIG. 13, the user-specific AR space models M21 and M22 are first aligned by taking the position and orientation of a reference object as a reference, and then merged by calculating the logical OR in units of voxels, thereby forming the merged AR space model M23. Herein, a logical OR means that a voxel distinguished as being occupied by a real (virtual) object in at least one of the user-specific AR space models is also distinguished as being occupied by a real (virtual) object in the merged AR space model. For example, the user-specific AR space model M21 includes virtual objects V21 and V22 corresponding to real objects. The user-specific AR space model M22 includes virtual objects V23 and V24 corresponding to real objects. The merged AR space model M23 includes all of these virtual objects V21, V22, V23, and V24.

[0179] Herein, for the purpose of comparison, assume a situation in which the user-specific AR space model M22 (not the merged AR space model M23) is shared between the users Ua and Ub. The avatars described using FIGS. 1 and 2 may move within the AR space so as not to collide with other virtual objects. However, since the user-specific AR space model M22 does not include the virtual object V22, an avatar may pass the position of the virtual object V22. Since a real object does not exist at the position of the virtual object V22 on the side of the user Ub, such avatar movement does not pose a problem. However, on the side of the user Ua, a real object exists at the position of the virtual object V22, and for this reason an unnatural display may be presented in which an avatar appears to go right through that real object. In contrast, in the case in which the merged AR space model M23 is shared between the users Ua and Ub, the merged AR space model M23 includes all of the virtual objects V21, V22, V23, and V24, thereby effectively preventing an avatar within the shared AR space from interfering with a real object near either user. If the user-specific AR space models are discretized in units of voxels, it is possible to merge the AR space models with a small computational load by using a simple algorithm based on logical operations in units of voxels. Note that in other examples, a logical AND may also be computed instead of a logical OR.

[0180] (3)* Third Example*

[0181] FIG. 14 is an explanatory diagram for describing for a third example of a technique for sharing an AR space among multiple users. In the third example, in the case in which an AR space is shared by multiple users, the AR space setting unit 144 forms a single AR space by merging multiple, user-specific AR spaces which are respectively constructed on the basis of captured images from those multiple users. The AR spaces are divided into multiple territories respectively assigned to each user, and the AR space setting unit 144 may merge user-specific augmented reality spaces by selecting respectively different user-specific augmented reality spaces for individual territories according to the user assignments of the individual territories, for example. FIG. 14 illustrates users Ua and Ub. The user Ub is the opponent of the user Ua. In the upper-left of FIG. 14, there is illustrated a user-specific AR space model M31 expressing a user-specific AR space constructed by discretizing a real space near the user Ua. In the upper-right of FIG. 14, there is illustrated a user-specific AR space model M32 expressing a user-specific AR space constructed by discretizing a real space near the user Ub. The user-specific AR space models M31 and M32 are merged on the devices of the users Ua and Ub or on an application server to form a single merged AR space model M33. In the example in FIG. 14, the left half of the AR space is a territory Ta assigned to the user Ua, while the right half of the AR space is a territory Tb assigned to the user Ub, taking the position of a reference object as a reference. The AR space setting unit 144 selects the user-specific AR space model M31 for the territory Ta, selects the user-specific AR space model M32 for the territory Ta, and forms the merged AR space model M33 by joining these selected user-specific AR space models at the territory boundary. The merged AR space model M33 includes a virtual object V31 that was included in the user-specific AR space model M31 in the territory Ta, and includes virtual objects V32 and V33 that were included in the user-specific AR space model M32 in the territory Tb.

[0182] According to such a technique, it becomes possible for multiple users to divide the task of constructing and customizing an AR space into separate territories. Also, in competitive multiplayer game applications (such as a survival game, dodgeball, or snowball fight played with avatars), it becomes possible for each user to construct his or her own base, in which the user-specific bases are joined to form a single multiplayer field as a whole.

[0183] Note that in any of the techniques, the AR space setting unit 144 may also set the display scale of an AR space shared by multiple users on the basis of the size of a reference object within a real space depicted in an input image, for example. For this reason, in the case in which an AR space model delivered from a server is used to set an AR space, for example, it is possible to avoid an unnatural display in which the set AR space appears to be floating above, or conversely sunken into, the real space. Otherwise, the display scale of the AR space may be set on the basis of the distance between the camera and some kind of reference surface, such as a floor surface, wall surface, or table surface in the real space, for example.

[0184] [3-6. Displaying Shared Objects]

[0185] (1)* Virtual Object Display Attributes*

[0186] In the case in which an AR space is shared among multiple users, there is a possibility that a virtual object corresponding to a real object that does not exist near a given user is included in the shared AR space model. In this case, if that virtual object is not displayed, the user will not recognize the existence of that object. On the other hand, even if a virtual object corresponding to a real object that does exist near a user is not displayed, since the real object is depicted in an input image, the user is able to recognize the existence of that object. When causing a virtual object corresponding to a real object to be displayed on-screen, the object control unit 146 may change the display attributes of the virtual object according to which user’s captured image depicts the real object corresponding to that virtual object. For example, the object control unit 146 may hide or make semi-transparent a virtual object corresponding to a real object that is depicted in a captured image from the user of the current device, and superimpose onto an input image only virtual objects corresponding to real objects depicted in captured images from other users. In addition, the object control unit 146 may also set the texture or color of virtual objects corresponding to real objects depicted in captured images from other users differently for each user.

[0187] FIG. 15 is an explanatory diagram for describing an example of a display of an AR space shared by multiple users. Referring to FIG. 15, an information processing device 100a possessed by a user Ua is illustrated. On the screen of the information processing device 100a, there are displayed an avatar A11 of the user Ua and an avatar A12 of the user Ub superimposed onto an input image. The input image depicts a real object R12. The real object R12 exists in a real space near the user Ua. Additionally, a virtual object V15 is displayed on the screen of the information processing device 100a. A real object corresponding to the virtual object V15 does not exist in the real space near the user Ua, but does exist in a real space near the user Ub (not illustrated). By setting the display attributes of a virtual object in this way (in the example in FIG. 15, display/hide), a user is able to distinguish between objects that exist near himself or herself and all other objects within an AR application image. Also, in the case in which the display attributes of virtual objects are separately set for each user, it becomes possible for a user to distinguish which virtual objects originate from real objects near which users.

[0188] (2) Shared/Unshared Settings

[0189] In the case in which an AR space is shared among multiple users, there is a possibility that a user does not want other users to know what kinds of real objects exist near himself or herself. If starting an AR application required physically removing real objects that a user does not want other users to know about from a real space, the user would be inconvenienced. Accordingly, the AR space setting unit 144 may also set an AR space by discretizing only real objects specified by the user. Otherwise, the AR space setting unit 144 may also prompt the user to specify real objects to exclude from the AR space, and set the AR space by discretizing real objects that were not excluded.

[0190] FIG. 16 is an explanatory diagram for describing an example of a user interface by which a user specifies an object to share or not share. Referring to FIG. 16, an image Im13 depicting a real space 11a is displayed on-screen in the information processing device 100a. The image Im13 depicts a real object R12 existing in the real space 11a. The recognition unit 142 uses the real object data 162 to recognize the real object R12, for example. Before setting the AR space, the AR space setting unit 144 superimposes onto the image Im13 a message MSG11 querying whether or not to exclude the recognized real object R12 from the AR space. For example, in the case in which the user chooses to exclude the real object R12 from the AR space, a virtual object corresponding to the real object R12 is not included in the AR space model. On the other hand, in the case in which the user chooses not to exclude the real object R12 from the AR space, a virtual object corresponding to the real object R12 is included in the AR space model. By providing such a user interface, it becomes possible to share only objects that a user allows to share with other users in an AR application.

[0191] (3)* Voxel Granularity*

[0192] The AR space setting unit 144 may also prompt a user to specify the granularity of voxels used in order to discretize real objects. If the voxel granularity is small, a virtual object corresponding to a real object may clearly reproduce the appearance of that real object. If the voxel granularity is large, a virtual object corresponding to a real object may only vaguely reproduce the appearance of that real object.

[0193] FIG. 17 is an explanatory diagram for describing the setting of voxel granularity. On the left of FIG. 17, a real object R19 is illustrated as an example. On the right of FIG. 17, virtual objects V19a, V19b, and V19c corresponding to the real object R19 are illustrated. The voxel granularity of the virtual object V19a is relatively large, and the virtual object V19a is made up of three voxels. The voxel granularity of the virtual object V19b is smaller than the virtual object V19a, and the virtual object V19b is made up of 24 voxels. The voxel granularity of the virtual object V19c is even smaller than the virtual object V19b, and the virtual object V19c is made up of even more voxels. As FIG. 17 demonstrates, the virtual object V19c more clearly reproduces the appearance of the real object R19 compared to the virtual objects V19a and V19b.

[0194] For example, in the case in which a user places importance on the reproducibility of a real space, the user may specify a smaller voxel granularity. Conversely, in the case in which a user places more on importance on protecting privacy than the reproducibility of a real space, the user may specify a larger voxel granularity. If a user interface enabling such voxel granularity to be specified is provided, it becomes possible for a user to select a voxel granularity matching his or her own intentions at individual times.

[0195] Instead of being directly specified by a user, the voxel granularity may also be determined on the basis of a user’s privacy settings. As illustrated in FIG. 17, in the case in which a user seeks a high level of privacy protection, the AR space setting unit 144 determines a larger voxel granularity. On the other hand, in the case in which a user allows a low level of privacy protection, the AR space setting unit 144 determines a smaller voxel granularity. If a user interface enabling such privacy levels to be specified is provided, it becomes possible for an AR application to adaptively adjust the voxel granularity to match the level of privacy protection sought by a user.

[0196] <4. Virtual Object Operations>

[0197] In this section, various working examples related to operations on avatars and other virtual objects placed within an AR space will be described.

[0198] [4-1. Operation Window Examples]

[0199] (1)* Avatar Selection Window*

[0200] FIG. 18 is an explanatory diagram for describing an example of an avatar selection window. The avatar selection window is a window that may be displayed when a user starts an avatar-based AR application, or when a user registers user data in an application. In the example in FIG. 18, four avatars are being displayed in an avatar selection window Im21. The user is able to change the currently selected candidate avatar by flicking in the left and right directions, for example. If the user taps an OK button, the candidate avatar selected at that time (typically, the avatar being displayed in front) is selected as the avatar for the user.

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