Clearpath Robotics might be dead serious about its stand against “killer robots,” but that hasn’t stopped its team from having some fun developing a new 3D video game – featuring laser-firing duelling robots – in collaboration with Christie, the Waterloo Region-based maker of visual display technology.

The two local companies teamed up in January during a Clearpath “hack week,” in which employees get to experiment with new ideas.

The result was a game that saw computer graphics beamed onto the floor of the robotics company’s Kitchener warehouse, from Christie projection mapping equipment mounted to the ceiling, creating a “digital arena” for the battling autonomous vehicles.

The Clearpath team was inspired by a similar project at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), but wanted its version to use open-source software and run as a completely interactive program.

“Teaming up with Christie allowed us to experiment with the latest 3D projection mapping technology in combination with our Jackal robots and open-source software,” said Ryan Gariepy, co-founder and Chief Technology Officer at Clearpath. “This was our recipe for an augmented reality video game. Combining both of our technologies resulted in a one-of-a-kind experience that was fun to work on and even more fun to play with.”

Augmented reality involves the superimposing of a computer image into the real world. With Christie’s overhead 3D projectors, the Clearpath team created an overlay on the warehouse floor that projected weapons, recharging shields and hit points for a two-player (or human-versus-A.I.) game, complete with sound effects, using two of their Jackal unmanned ground vehicles.

Christie provided four Christie HD14K-M software-equipped projectors and two cameras for the project, and rigged the projectors in a 2 x 2 configuration on the warehouse ceiling. The cameras captured what was happening on the floor and sent the information via Christie’s AutoCal software, which automatically aligned and blended imagery from the four projectors into a seamless, 30-foot, projection-mapped digital canvas.

Clearpath has posted further details of its collaboration with Christie, complete with video of the duelling robots in action, on its company blog.

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Anthony Reinhart
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Anthony Reinhart is a veteran journalist who left the Globe and Mail to join Communitech in 2011. Tony has covered everything from crime, politics and courts to business, the arts and sports, and his writing has won numerous journalism awards. He is Communitech's Director of Editorial Strategy and senior staff writer.