ISMAR 2009 Epilogue: A New Augmented Reality World Order

ISMAR 2009 is over.

It was the best of times. Augmented to the Nth degree.

How does the world of Augmented Reality looks like in the morning after?

Eager, revolutionary, strong, creative, responsible, loving – with a speck of a hang over.

Does it feel any different than before?

Well, a few tectonic plates have shifted overnight.

Here it is, my

Top 10 tidbits reshaping the augmented reality industry:

1) AR Browsers make peace not war
Augmented reality browsers and navigation apps have been the media darlings of 2009. They have been depicted as gladiators battling to the death (we take some of the blame). ISMAR, on the contrary, was all about love and peace. On Monday’s Mobile Workshop, Robert Rice and I had the privilege to moderate a session about collaboration in the AR industry. Picture this: Layar, Wikitude, Junaio (from Metaio), and Across Air sitting around a table planning a communication standard for augmented reality information. I had a tear at the corner of my eye.

Missing in action: Presselite, Tonchidot, RobotVision, GeoVector…

2) Mobile is king, and the iPhone is the emperor’s new clothes

In 2009, ISMAR organizers decided to feature Mobile Augmented Reality (driven by Christine Perey) as the highlight of the event (duh!). The event guide explains: “much of the media and consumer attention is on mobile AR…because AR is increasingly with users where ever [they go].” The intention manifested itself allover the place: in workshops (“Present, Future, and the Roadmap to Mobile AR”, “Outdoor AR”), tutorials (Introduction to Handheld AR), sessions (Human interfaces, Human Factors, Tracking on mobile devices), announcements (Junaio, Artoolkit on the iPhone), posters (Streaming on mobile phones, In-situ outdoor geo models, Clinical Training experiences, Egocentric space distortion for environment exploration, Learning on the iPhone, and EyePly – mobile AR for sporting events), and demos (first panda ever to appear at ISMAR, PTAM on an iPhone.)

And all this hoopla around a phone that requires you to access a private API for live video?

3) Vuzix leading the pack in AR glasses

Photo Credit: Ron Azuma (Nokia)

Photo Credit: Ron Azuma (Nokia)

Mobile AR was all the rage, but AR aficionados in-situ were hungry for new AR glasses that will truly unleash its power. ORA Lab and Canon still offer huge-expensive HMDs; Microvision is focused on thick military grade monocle, and Nokia tries to leapfrog with way-cool gaze tracking but poor display (check out Thomas Carpenter’s post for more on ISMAR HMDs.)

This leaves Vuzix lonely at the top with with the only see-around, semi-dorky, inexpensive glasses (the envy of any Panda)


Missing in action: Lumus

4) Sketch is the new marker


Best student paper award went to Oriel, Nate et al. for AR Sketch (which featured in our top post and popular video). Their work is revolutionizing the AR world by avoiding the need to print markers – or any images whatsoever.

Two other winner were Steven Henderson (with Steven Feiner) for “Augmented Reality for Task Localization in Maintenance of an Armored Personnel Carrier Turret” and honorable mention for the lovely Susanna Nilsson (with Bjorn Johansson) for “AR to support cross-organisational collaboration in dynamic tasks”(read: disaster relief) – but both would have made scarry headlines: “Tanks Take Over ISMAR” or “Fire sweeps ISMAR”

Missing in action: Daniel Wagner – who delivered his best paper yet: con-graz on your new baby!

5) Qualcomm spearheads as the most aggressive chip maker in AR

As diamond sponsor of the event, and with its own Jay Wright painting the vision for AR in 2012, as well as bravely moderating the controvertial “Past and Future of ISMAR” Panel –  Qualcomm leapfrogged the other chip makers to become the most sincere contender in the future of AR devices.

Missing in action: Nvidia

6) Microsoft – the new big player to watch

Georg Klein, inventor of PTAM-on-an-iPhone (and the smartest Computer Vision guy on the block) joins Microsoft to make Mobile AR. Look out for Microsoft.

7) Minority report VFX designer is looking for the next big thing in AR

The mere presence of guy with the most enviable AR credentials in the world (the guy who designed VFX for minority report), Kent Demaine, signaled the entrance of AR into the major leagues. Now he just needs to convince J.J. Abrahams to make a movie out of Vernor Vinge’s Rainbows End.

8) New ARtist in charge

At ISMAR 2008, only one artist was present at the show and easily grabbed my Most Beautiful Demo award. In 2009 with a whole new tarck for Humanities, Arts and Media – the competition was more intensive. One artist came above all with commercial-quality, entertaining-yet-sophisticated pieces – and proved that with good design today’s technology is ready for prime time. Helen Papagiannis is the new AR artist-in-charge.

9) The AR ivory tower has been shaken
The fearless Pattie Maes presented, in front of an AR-only crowd, her popular off-mainstream augmented reality project the Six Sense making the point that with simple technology, low cost components, and clever design –  it may be easy to bring the digital world into the physical one.

Although they all saw it coming – the audience was stumped.

Just check out who asked the questions:

Mark Billinghurst – “have you evaluated the user experience with users?”
Steven Feiner – “It won’t work on large buildings, would it?”
Bruce Thomas – “What about privacy?”

Nuff said.

10) AR goes commercial
This was already the 10th ISMAR yet since the first – multiple attempts were made to bring AR to consumers – but the market has been elusive. This year, was the first time were consumer-oriented products were introduced. From Layar to Wikitude to Across Air and the just-announced Junaio, and learning games like Ogmento‘s Put a Spell – ISMAR became the breading ground for commercial AR. Christine Perey even dares to estimate Mobile AR revenue in 2009 to hit $10 Million. The tsunami is coming, prepare your surf boards.


If you feel this list is lacking or biased, I kindly refer you to the Heisenberg uncertainty principle which states that one can not measure both position and momentum in precision, because the mere observation affects the results. Beat that excuse – brainiacs.
(thanks Noah for the pointer)

By the way, I finally discovered why Korea is at the epicenter of the Augmented Reality world: How do you say “good morning” in Korean?

To find the answer you’ll have to come to ISMAR next year in Korea!
: 증강 현실)

How did ISMAR change YOUR view of the AR world?


Other ISMAR 2009 posts you mustn’t miss:

ISMAR Demo preview

Our ISMAR 2008 link collection

Stay tuned for links to videos and presentations here and at the ISMAR society site.

13 Responses

  1. Seeing your top ten makes me wish I could have stayed for the whole event. Was sad I had to miss the Pattie Maes talk and other AR-goodness.

    Was nice to finally meet you. Enjoyed the discussion Sunday night and good luck with Put-A-Spell!


  2. Interesting summary, bizarre in some ways, but at least you wear your bias on your sleeve. ;)

    One comment: the only reason the questions to Pattie were so tame is that most of the people who work in the area were dumbstruck about how someone so famous, at such a good institute, and surrounded by so many other smart folks could do such glaringly bad work (and, in turn, why she was invited to present it).

    It’s one thing to mock up fancy demos aimed to inspire (at TED); it’s another to present it as research. You should have reported the answers she gave to those questions: that it doesn’t work (was mostly mocked up), it’s not been evaluated or even tested besides “demo days”, and that she seemed completely unaware of the vast amount of prior (and in many cases better) work. For example, she presented her “remote collaboration” as revolutionary, but folks in Japan have been doing this (and evaluating it and publishing it) for years.

    But, overall, ISMAR seemed fun, if fairly disorganized.

  3. I’m so sad
    I couldn’t make it. Looks like there was lots of great stuff.
    Its really pleasing, once again, that everyone wants a standard. It seems we have learnt a few lessons from the internet. I still fully back Wave as a good solution from a technical standpoint, but any that the group comes up with that gives similar functionality (and isnt tied to a single sever controlled by one company) is good by me.

    AR Sketch seems like it could grow into something very powerfull.
    I can just picture in 15 years teachers, students and researchers communicating ideas by sketching on paper and whiteboards, and everyone else seeing the sketchs come to life with true physics simulations.

    I’m still disappointed Vuzix backed down with their plans to release a optical transparent HMD, but equaly curious about devices they have/will released. I cant find =any= AR-based reviews on their stuff. its all movie-watching.

  4. Thanks for the Eyeply mention. We had a great time sharing with and learning from the global augmented reality community. We saw some awesome stuff in the demo areas. Did anyone document all of that work? It was amazing playing games that you’ve only seen movies about.

    BTW, any chance the Eyeply link could point to :) Currently it points to another overview of what was shown at ISMAR.

  5. […] Posts ISMAR 2009 Epilogue: A New Augmented Reality World OrderTop 10 augmented reality demos that will revolutionize video gamesISMAR 2009: Sketch and Shape […]

  6. […] anything anyone says about AR standards at the moment will hold up.  But as Ori commented in his great post – an epilogue for ISMAR 2009 the vibe was “Peace and Love” in AR Browser land (although Chetan Damani of Across Air […]

  7. […] Ori’s epilogue to ISMAR 2009, putting together a top ten impressions list […]

  8. […] nuts. As Ori Inbar wrote about the Sketch AR team in an overview of ISMAR, “Their work is revolutionizing the AR world by avoiding the need to print markers – or […]

  9. […] nuts. As Ori Inbar wrote about the Sketch AR team in an overview of ISMAR, “Their work is revolutionizing the AR world by avoiding the need to print markers – or […]

  10. […] The presentation was well received by many leading members of the community and was listed as a highlight of the conference at […]

  11. […] Onibar over at Games Alfresco has done an interesting summary of 10 tidbits that came out of the symposium that might reshape the augumented reality […]

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