One of the beauties of new technology is its ability to give us things we never knew we needed and then get us hooked on it.

A case in point may be the LuminAR. This prototype, designed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) doctoral student Natan Linder and MIT professor Pattie Maes, combines two mechanical components to create an evolved version of so-called augmented reality (AR).

The first component, the LuminAR Bulb, consists of a compact, portable projector-camera, or Pico-projector. It is combined with a wireless computer to create a self-contained system that can be screwed into the socket of a traditional incandescent desk lamp or, for that matter, any standard lighting fixture.

If stationary, computer-generated projection from a light socket was what the two researchers were after, they would have quit there, but their vision involved another layer of imagination. They combined this novel concept for a computer camera-projector with a second feature that gives it the ability to scan and project from various different angles. An articulated robotic arm, the LuminAR Lamp, is designed to interface with the projector-camera, enabling it to project digital images in various directions and angles along the vertical and horizontal axes.

AR is an emerging technology that allows for the projection of digital virtual imagery into a real-world environment in real time. It enables users to project digital imagery that adds information to enhance their physical space. Hardware devices include head-mounted displays, eyeglasses, contact lenses and handheld devices. The technology is used in a variety of professions, such as archaeology, architecture, art, business, navigation, the military and others. It aides learning, collaborating, teaching and designing.

According to the MIT researchers, the LuminAR device is innovative in the AR field because it is completely portable and it provides users with a gestural interface.