Live from ISMAR 2009: Starts Today with Innovation Workshops – Mobile Augmented Reality

ISMAR 2009 is starting Today. Woo-hoo!
Looks like a true conference. Beyond the strong presence of researchers – many start ups, game developers, artists, press. The augmented reality industry is forming in front of our eyes.

Multiple interesting innovation workshops are on the agenda for today. I am joining the Mobile Magic Wand workshop.

Christine Perey kicks off the workshop with a dry definition of what Mobile AR: is a catch all Mobile AR apps, services, hardware, content  for consumers, professionals, prosumers, both indoor and outdoor.
What does a capable mobile device need to pack in order to play in the AR world?CPU 600 mhz, camera, GPS, compass, and some more goodies depending on the target application…

Today’s mobile AR users: more than a thousand and less than 1 million (90%+ on Android and iPhones)
These are early adopters, avid users of social networks, mostly located in western Europe, north America and south east Asia.

Who’s in the audience? Mobile network operators and mostly content and application developers. Dirk from Layar confirms they have shared 1000 developers keys. This is starting to look like a solid community.

Perey presents  usage scenarios that will be tackled by 4 of the AR companies on the workshop (Layar, Mobilizy, Across Air, Metaio):

1) Entertaining in teen town

2) College fresh on campus

3) Assisting a tourist

Peter Meier CTO of Metaio is first on stage (self described Dinozaurs in the AR space) starting with an introduction to Junaio: take pictures of locations and post in 3D in a physical location that are stored on a Metaio server – so that both mobile and home users could enjoy.

He bravely demos it live, posting a 3D object at the end of the room. Peter: “It’s always a hard one…we rely on a bad GPS signal…”

Peter then switches phones and starts playing a zombie game, slashing zombies hidden among the audience “I hope you are all over 18 because there is some explicit content here”…

Anyone can create Junaio enabled games using web APIs. It’s for programmers and non-programmers, it will includs marker tracking and markerless tracking.

Peter wraps up with a display of his excitement about the public awareness to AR: ” I have been explaining AR for so long now, that I am so happy with recent developments in the space.”

Markus Tripp from Mobilizy, joined the founder Philipp in the very early days of this start up (currently 10 employees).

He starts addressing the first use case: coaching a college freshman, by touting Mobilizy’s proposed markup language – ARML. It makes it easy to customize the content for the aforementioned freshman (writing XML). He describes the developer API and the architecture behind the scenes that enables the content development and user experience (including search, bookmarks, filters , etc.)

The SDK is free for developers (developers have to pay when they publish an app based on Wikitude).

Next is David Murphy from Nokia. David starts with the news: “There is more to life than Android and iPhone…”

Nokia has been in the space for a while and the underlying OS Symbian is being open sourced.
N97 is a great device for augmented reality scenarios. But there are many moe cheaper phones that can do AR.

David dives into a technical recipe of Nokia’s elaborate capabilities to address the scenarios covering: Camera. display, sensors and network.  Important considerarions include location acquisition API (compensating for inaccurate GPS signal with existing POIs), user interface (has to be flexible), networking (multiple standard protocols), and even translation to other languages support. On screen augmentation: multiple options are available such as OpenGL (though Nokia phones have no 3D acceleration in hardware.)

David wraps up with a caution: “be realistic with your applications – accuracy will be iffy…so aim to annotate building size objects. And don’t forget AR services are very power hungry – the battery is finite afterall…;)”

Last on the roundup is Chetan Damani from AcrossAir.

Established 2008, a free AR browser (planned to be released in December.) not as advanced as some of the other players so far.
Across Air browser will be completely 3D with angles and dimension. Keeping a simple user interface.

The use case: learning entertainment app. The proposal is about Dinosaurs AR with 3D animation.
AccrossAir has put together a massive back-end infrastructure that could be used for this scenario. The tool for developing the content seem well defined. AcrossAir is always there to give a hand…

Shows a video of 3D dinosaurs walking around you in a park!
(result of about 8 hours of work)

Chetan wraps up with success factors to consider for the app such as keep the UI simple, take advantage of the features, keep data dynamic (web access), and make sure the location is valuable to the app – and don’t forget to promote your feed and notify users. How much can you make out of it: you could charge $1.99 to ativate feed and rev share for advertising network, affiliate programs.

Augmented Reality in 2012

After a quick break “fluid adjustments” Jay Wright, responsible for business development at Qualcomm, comes on stage to talk about the vision of Augmented Reality for 2012. Exciting.

Jay is responsible for the commercialization of AR at Qualcomm. That’s music to my ears!

He starts with a statement: Wireless will bridge digital and the physical worlds. What deos AR have to do with it? it’s a new UI paradigm. The links get richer and richer the smarter the devices are (make sense coming from a mobile phone chip manufacturer.)

Jay sees the future of mobile AR as moving from a compass based (Wikitude, Layar) to vision-based approaches.

Some of the existing barriers for mobile AR such as limited computational power and power consumption will have to be addressed by phone manufacturers.: more MIPS (like with SnapDragon that offers 1GHz!), programmable GPUs, multimedia accelerations, and integrated chipsets (helps optimize power consumptions) , new classes of sensors with dedicated processors, new displays with higher resolution that work better in sunlight (OLED). Jay even hints at including advance gesture recognition into hardware.

Head-mounted displays – we are all waiting for see-thru displays which are aparently very difficult to achieve with today’s technology, and we need to think about new interactive and intuitive UI paradygms.

Location services accuracy will improve by fusing multiple location engines.

Batter life – AR is a very hungry for battery power, which are only advancing 8% a year. Manufacturers are looking at new simpler ways to charge devices (by dropping the wires).

Cameras – we’ll need wider field of view,fast and efficient programmatic retrieval of image frames, moving into HD etc.

Additional considerations for the future: operating systems will introduce AR specific capabilities, ubquitious WWAN broadband, smartphone peripherals, peer to peer capabilities (e.g. for games), and location aids.

Standards bodies: OGC, AR Commons (in Japan), Khronos for rendering standards (OpenGL, WebGL, OpenCL, Collada) and for image signatures: ISO (JPEG. JBIG)

Jay wraps up with a quick look out of AR platforms: they will consist (like in many instances in the past) of player and content, supported by authoring tools.

Christine touches on domains that will become infused with AR capabilities such as navigation, education, games, commerce, social media…

How will the total industry revenue in 2012 will be broken up?  AR developers for technologies and tools, corporations spending on products and services, and eventually end users will pay for premium apps and services.

Now a switch to Social Augmented Reality (AR 2.0) presented by Tobias Hollerer (along with Mark Billinghurst and Dieter Schmalstieg)

Content for AR browsers will include public sources, premium content authored by agencies, and crowd sourcing. To get a sense of the potential – in the last few weeks Tobias tracked about 3000-5000 twits a day about Augmented Reality.

Business models that could work for AR 2.0 (similar to web 2.0): ads, affiliate, pay per view for premium content.

Ways to publish content: stand alone apps (not scalable), AR browsers (is now very popular), AR widgets (more modular).

Dieter picks up the discussion and dives into user created content for social augmented reality (building on the success of  web 2.0): bottom up process of rating and tagging information by the crowds.

AR infrastructure will consist of big content providers and personal content providers.

Authoring : today is mostly happening on the desktop. In situ authoring will become more prevalent and efficient at capturing real time, location-specific information.

Dieter ends with a tongue in cheek: Google cars will not go into your bed room (to create street view like images) – so there will be a need for individuals to capture content indoors.

Mark Billinghurst comes on stage at lunch time and proposes a social experiment…”if you are hungry – go eat. If not – stay with me and listen up…”
Nobody leaves…is nobody hungry or is Mark that good?

How is the AR experience affected with AR 2.0?

AR 2.0 stages will follow the stages in social media:
1. Establishing online profiles
2. Functionality – platform for social interactivity
3. Colonization – single identity
4. Context
5. Social commerce

How do you deal with thousands of twits in your area?
The answer is of course through information filtering.

Designing for individuals is very different than designing for crowds.
Mentioning an example of Carlo Ratti from MIT – which tracks location of people over a city scale.

Mark wraps up with a bunch of remaining questions that the industry will have to tackle…

Now, off to lunch.

Stay tuned for exciting breakout sessions after lunch.

4 Responses

  1. Out of all the presentations I found AcrossAir’s to be the most impressive. Rather than focusing on an AR browser app, they want to hold data for all of the world’s “points of interest.” They’re subtly acquiring high-profile partners (BBC, Ticketmaster) and gunning for large, long run, detailed p.o.i’s. They seem to know what’s really going on. Why isnt Total Immersion being represented?

    Cool, but that might give them a bit too much power should they succeed. Issues concerning who gets to censor, edit and filter content was not addressed despite recent warning signs from the Apple app store (google the 1984 app story).

    Anyway it’s funny that we were in the same room. I went next door to the social AR conference for awhile and saw presentations on facebook apps that integrate AR tech. Things is: no one is using the compass + QR Codes at the same time. It’s either or. A solid outdoor game will need to make good use of both.

  2. Sounds like a great start to the conference.
    Lots of interesting work there, and I cant wait for some videos to trickle down ;)

    Little disappointed not much talk of co-operation. We still seem heading for the multiple-browsers/different data route. Which is going to be a massive turn-off for users. Now theres my proposal I’m working on with Tish (AR objects hosted as blips on Wave), but Id hoped there would be others working towards similar goals. Oh well, maybe day 2 :)

    ” Things is: no one is using the compass + QR Codes at the same time. It’s either or. A solid outdoor game will need to make good use of both.”

    Most obviously having a person wearing a marker gives a lot more options.
    Definitely the future we should be moving towards should be having browsers that can do both at the same time. (Although by “marker” I’m also counting any trackable image)

  3. Thanks for sharing this helpful info!

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