augmented reality


This is what a mobile device is for. AR

In the quest for mobile communication the telecoms companies have tended to stick with the same principles. We need a mobile phone to carry voice, we need a camera to take pictures so that we can have a video conversation (that has not quite seemed to take off). Text messages with SMS was a bit of a suprise and point to point MMS is not quite what people wanted. The rise of the social web, communicating in plain site online has more than ever driven the take up of data plans. Far more than downloading movies, or on the move TV it would seem.
Augmented reality is in a gap though. When you take the cameras which accidently evolved to show the world not show the user, you take the processing power onboard and the recent huge rise in combined device capabilities we start to see yet more Augmented Reality.
This is a great IPhone example from some guys at Oxford in the UK.

It is impressive at it is in effect markerless using the environment to figure registration points.
The new Iphone 3GS with its compass and even more ways to tell which way is up lends itself also to this sort of game control mechanism. Which is not Augmented Reality as such, though is a branch of the field. Here the real world is used as the control mechanism for the virtual world, and it does not matter where in the real world you are, but the virtual world is always “inside” on the device.

John Bull printing set for digital natives – gives me an AR idea

I just saw a great link from Shapeways about using the 3d printer to create a stamp of a QR code. Using ink on the stamp and pressing it on a surface leaving a valid QR code impression.

This of course works as an idea on so many levels. It did remind me of the conversation we have round the invention of the printing press and the liberation of thought through that. It also took me back to my childhood with the John Bull printing set. We had small rubber and wooden letters that we lined up in a holder to print sentences.
Metaltype.co.uk image of John Bull printing set
(Image from http://www.metaltype.co.uk/ )
It also struck me that this is a great way to place Augmented reality tags too. QR codes are great in that they encode URL information, they can even be updated live as in Andy Sc’s QR code clock. However placing the markers and tags means they need to be physically rendered somehow if your are doing AR.
The marker here from this old demo was printed via a regular printer and pasted on a board. How cool would it be to be able to place those markers using a 3d printing stamp?

That then got me thinking……
The problem with an AR code marker is that on its own there is not an indication of what it was intended to relate to. It is just a token marker. So stamping AR tags all over the place are meaningless without context. QR codes on the other hand are more detailed versions of a bar code containing things like urls and other indicators.
So without having to reinvent any standards the AR marker could also include context with a QR marker indicating the context and even where to get the model or the rendering for the AR tag. That combined stamp could then be applied. Just as with any URL then the value of what the QR code points to could be adjusted as needed, updating what the AR does with the tag. An ARRI Augmented Reality Resource indicator.

Its not all Android and iphone AR you know?

To keep the rolling theme of Augmented Reality going and highlight interesting applications Ron Edwards from Ambient Performance has recently posted this tagged AR demonstration but running on a Nokia N95.
So that means there have been good AR demonstrations live on Android, Iphone, S60 and a quick youtube shows some on windows mobile too. 😉

There is a definite technology way rolling based on the mass adoption of relatively powerful smartphones (probably powered by the user friendly nature of the Apple Iphone) with cameras and internet connectivity, combined with opensource development components to help build on these too.
I would say watch this space, but the space will get filled with something rendered in realtime!

The future is arriving even faster than we thought

Having very recently watched terminator:salvation and thought about the various permutations of the technology implications that science fiction shows us it is always even more interesting to then compare and contrast with what we actually have available today.
One such example is in augmented reality, of which I have a lot of recent blog posts. This is not about sentient machines and skynet working out we are the problem (though expect a post related to that in the near future).

(Thanks andypiper for sharing this one)
This mobile browser seems to do many of the things we need in order to be able to see the information all around us and about our world that we can’t normal see when we are actually there.
Why tie this to Terminator? Well part of the machine vision elements we see in all the films is clearly augmenting the view of the world, more precise ways to mix digital models with our location, we may well turn out to be the augmented ones rather than a technological race of robots?
Whilst on the subject there are still lots of stories about the data contact lenses.

Handheld Gaming Augmented Reality – Invizimals

These combinations of technology packaged for consumer use are coming think and fast from E3. (I really must go next year!)
This time using a PSP with a camera and some registration markers to allow the collection and battling of multiple handheld views of individual pokemon style characters.
Now I have Eye of the Beholder an AR card game on the PS3 and the last few blog posts have been about Natal and Eye Pet. However this has a subtle extra point. The representation of a character via the magic window effect off a registration point can be done on anything, what they have done here though is use the connectivity of the PSP to allow more that one point of view or experience to be shared.
I see my view of the Augmented World, you see yours and we interact through it. Sounds like a metaverse to me, once we get from the single user experience (which is very cool but essentially a book or a movie) we then start to get to augmented reality virtual world brokered human communication.
In this example the kids are battling together in the same place, but as everywhere is local and distance does not exist on the web you can extrapolate how this could expand (as with Natal and the other tech) to a mixed mode virtual world or communication channel.
I bumped into this via the Guardian games blog feed on Youtube

Future Virtual world interaction, Milo, Project Natal, Eye Pet…

I just got to see this video from E3 with Peter Molyneux from Lionhead and the wonderful Project Natal gear that seems to work already, though you can never quite tell.
This however combines some Artificial life into the mix and Molyneux speaks about how everyone feels the immersion, picking things up, handing things over. There is of course an element of escapism required, but all our media requires that. Enough cues though and the brain engages, as with the few degrees of tilt on a fairground simulator, combined with a rushing video, the sense of speed, g force and braking becomes far greater as several senses are fooled at once.

Also the PS3 is showing what is does with a simple camera and markers, providing similar degrees of interaction without a controller with its forthcoming eye pet. The drawing of the toy for it to play with I am looking forward to see how it works. Its not on this viddler video but in the PS3 Home lounge I saw a kid draw a plane and it then rezzed as a cartoon plane that the pet flew away on. Very similar to the skateboard scanning in the earlier Natal trailer

So not only have we had the toe dipped in the water of removing the standard game controller, the rise of the Wiimote, the drums, guitar and microphones of rockband and guitar hero but we now also have gesture based computing, realtime on consumer entertainment platforms.

Whilst these are for pure entertainment, as the Wii balance board has shown they can move into actual exercise, real movement of real muscles. So think of Project Natal and alike providing a physio therapist the ability to remotely instruct on exercise with a good degree of feedback on actual performance of the patient, kids to rehearse their dance moves for upcoming shows with one another in different schools, an emerging science of remote body language (do we use the same signals as we do in real life when instrumented in this way). The list goes on. Of course this can also still work sat at a desk, pointing at things, handing things to one another and mixed with traditional communication media.

This is showing the way leading to some new interaction paradigms for people. It is also very real. There may be the odd bit of hype but we are now getting several generations into the technology. Next it goes mobile and we have full AR in a consumer package. How exciting is that !