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How augmented reality can find your keys

Image: AR headset
This cartoon shows a user wearing a headset that’s part of a system to keep track of items such as keys (102). The headset display could highlight the location of the keys even if they end up hidden under a sheaf of papers or lost between the cushions of a couch. (Microsoft Illustration via USPTO)

Microsoft expects its HoloLens augmented-reality headset to guide you through complicated tasks in the workplace, but someday you could also use it around the house to find misplaced items, play games – and even watch movies on a virtual big screen.

The possibilities for augmented reality, or AR, are laid out in a series of patents and patent applications published over the past month or so.

Augmented reality is a cousin of virtual reality. VR creates a complete computer-generated environment, viewed through headsets ranging from the high-end Oculus Rift and HTC Vive to the smartphone-based Google Daydream and Samsung Gear systems. AR systems like Microsoft’s HoloLens goes one step further, blending computer-generated imagery with the real-life scene that’s in front of you.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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