July 9, 2012 at 3:16 PM ET
In a slightly creepy but undoubtedly impressive feat of DIY electronics, an evidently lonely Japanese hacker has put together a virtual girlfriend through a combination of motion-tracking hardware, video goggles, and some scavenged 3-D game assets.
A video on YouTube, originally posted at Hack a Day, shows the view through a pair of video goggles that have been augmented with an Asus Xtion motion-tracking tool, essentially an off-brand Microsoft Kinect. This helps track his motion and the environment, and is assisted by some augmented-reality software that places virtual items on the image.
The last ingredient is, of course, a popular Japanese virtual pop idol. Hatsune Miku has starred in many games and concerts, and clearly the builder, known at the moment only by his online handle "Alsionesvx," is a fan. He collected some 3-D models and animations from a portable game that has some augmented reality functions and merged them with his hacked-together environment.
Now Hatsune Miku not only appears before him at the park and in his apartment, but follows him when beckoned, is blocked properly by things like trees, and even casts a shadow. He interacts with her, as well, flipping her tie and patting her head. It's troubling to watch him pet her fondly and then bop her on the head — not to mention the end of the video, which is a nod to potential applications best left to the imagination for now.
This application of cutting-edge technologies may seem rather frivolous, but it's easy to imagine practical uses. Virtual tours and classes, games, telepresence and, yes, companionship — there are many possibilities, but it'll be a while before this patchwork of free software and taped-together hardware will be practical for everyday use.
Devin Coldewey is acontributing writer for msnbc.com. His personal website iscoldewey.cc.