Will The New Blackberry Storm Through the Augmented Reality World?

In our quest for a better augmented reality experience we keep evaluating new devices that could deliver a superior AR experience.

The new kid on the block that is attempting to take on the iPhone is Blackberry’s Storm.

It will be on sale starting tomorrow. Here is a collection of roundups.

Should it make the top 5 best AR device list?

To achieve that feat it first has to beat the iPhone. Its haptic capability (pressing a button on the touch screen feels like pressing a real button) won’t do it alone.

Well, the Storm has a better camera (3.2 MP vs. 2MP), a somewhat better screen (especially in sun light), and it records video. One could also expect a longer battery time.

On the down side: the user experience and the OS is reportedly not up to snuff with the iPhone (freezes, awkward user interface at times). Plus it’s missing WIFI support (what gives?), and it’s heavier (by 17%).

The verdict?

The Storm will have to prove itself in the market with adoption among users and developers before making the top 5 AR device list.

Can The New Nintendo DSi Augment Your Reality?

The Nintendo DSi, now with camera, went on sale in Japan on November 1st; next year in the rest of the world.

We were excited when it was announced in September, and thought it could energize the augmented reality games scene. So, here it is, not just with one camera – but two!

Eurogames shares their hands on experience with the newcomer. If you have a fetish for unboxing new products, get your fix with 1Up.

Aaah, but here’s the rub: the cameras boast a mere 0.3 MP each…

Nintendo’s strategy of taking advantage of inexpensive technology and creating new and compelling game experiences has been wildly successful in the past with the DS and the Wii.

Will developers’ ingenuity be able to beat the DSi constraints (cpu power, resolution) and make it play cool AR games?

Still remains to be seen. Until then, take a look at this basic augmented reality software loaded on the DSi:

  • change the color of your shirt – virtually – with the touch of a stylus
  • face recognition that makes you look happy, angry or sad,
  • or if you are more into felines, why not grow cat-ears-and-whiskers?

The Perfect Augmented Reality MID Device Has Arrived: Ciao!

When you’re in pursuit of the ultimate augmented reality game, you’d better be riding on an ultimate augmented reality device.

So far, we have been hitchhiking “lesser evils” such as described in my “Top Mobile Devices Compete

The conclusion was grim:

No big winners on this list.
Some have to be hacked to do AR; some might not see the light of day; others don’t even have cameras.
[What in the world are MIDs with no cameras doing on the list, you ask?
Patience my friends. The MIDs are coming. They will have cameras in no time.]

A couple of days later, before you could say “Intel’s-Atom-based-mobile-internet-device”, a MID with a rear camera was announced; and it speaks Italian: Ciao Itelco IDOL!

Itelco IDOL

Those of you following the MIDs evolution, will immediately recognize it as a rebranded Aigo 8880 or a Megabyte M528 or maybe a SFR M! PC Pocket… all various rebadged configurations of Option’s Compal JAX-10 design unveiled at Intel’s IDF this August.

This time with a confirmed rear camera.

It is on sale on Itelco’s site for 449 euros (~$573).

Itelco apparently rushed to publish it and had no time to fully translate the specs. Luckily, Poketables were there for us:

[The 320g device includes] a 800MHz Intel Atom Z500 CPU, [running Linux] 4.8-inch 800 x 480 touchscreen, and 4GB SSD…integrated 3.5G, 3-megapixel rear camera, and GPS.

I am inclined to announce the IDOL as the front-runner in the race for augmented reality device greatness, but since I am yet to receive a first hand confirmation of its use in an AR scenario, I’ll settle for an update of the “2008 High End Round Up”

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Nice. Finally a contender with no major flaws. Back to the pursuit of the ultimate augmented reality game.

Let us know when you try the new ragazzo on the block.

Top Mobile Devices Compete for Augmented Reality Puissance

One of the most popular posts on this blog has been, and still is, my “Top 10 Augmented Reality Devices“.

Based on the feedback, you appreciated the condensed collection of various categories of devices, as well as the suggested criteria for evaluating upcoming devices. What you were missing is a practical head to head comparison of the top devices.

So ,here it is: the (mostly) complete, (roughly) unbiased, and accurate (at best) comparison of the top mobile devices for high end augmented reality.

How do you become a high-end AR device?

If you’re snug in my hand, have the power to track natural features and objects in live video, while interacting with the overlaid 3D graphics at 24 fps — and all looking good on the display – welcome to the high end club.

Now, take a deep breath, click…and dive right ahead: 5 devices, 22 criteria, rated from bad->fair->good->excellent, with no frills.

Contribution by Daniel Wagner

No big winners on this list.

Some have to be hacked to do AR; some might not see the light of day; others don’t even have cameras.

[What in the world are MIDs with no cameras doing on the list, you ask?

Patience my friends. The MIDs are coming. They will have cameras in no time.]

Have you seen any better high end device?

Should Nokia sneak up there?

What would you like to see next on the list?

Can Google’s G1 do augmented reality better then the iPhone?

The iPhone hype still rules the augmented reality devices charts, but as Walter Mossberg claims in his in-depth test drive:

that will all change on Oct. 22, when T-Mobile and Google bring out the G1, the first hand-held computer that’s in the same class as Apple’s iPhone.

Google's G1

iPhone

TechCrunch has its own view on the comparison.

Here’s my quick comparison of the two devices through an augmented reality lens:

They both have similar screen quality (480×320 65K color), a nice touch screen, similar CPU speed, GPU for graphics acceleration, accelerometers for sensing movement, and are both in the under $200 price category.

G1’s Screen size is reportedly narrower than the iPhone (3.2” compared with 3.5”) yet is bulkier (weighs 5.6 ounces to 4.7) and is much thicker; but it has a better camera resolution (3.1 mp compared with 2mp), though similar to iPhone – it can’t record video.

A downside for developers is the very low memory allocated for third party apps (128 megabytes) and the 1G storage space (expandable up to 8GB) which would seriously limit/irritate developers.

On the positive side it has 5 buttons, a real keyboard (you care?), a compass… and most importantly it’s built on Android, an open (yet unproven) Operating System  – which means easier to adapt for the specific needs of augmented reality applications. On the flip side, some developers hate the restriction that comes with Android: program in Java.

Bottom line, these are worthy competitors – each with its own advantages and caveats.  The real winner will be determined, as always, based on whoever offers the best content and the best reality experiences.

Remember WIFI ARMY? It was a very promising AR game for Android (made it to the #7 spot in my top 10 AR demos). But they went silent…their website is down. If you see something – say something.

Nintendo DS Wants to Augmented your Reality

Rumors about a new device that could enter the Augmented Reality game were confirmed yesterday by Nikkei Net. Wired revealed it to the rest of us – thank you very much. The new Nintendo DS model will launch this year in Japan.

What’s all the rage?

One of the most popular mobile game devices ever, now with a camera, better wireless capabilities, and a larger display – all packaged under $200?

Sounds like a killer augmented reality device to me.

Game devices such as the DS made it to the #6 spot on my “10 Best Augmented Reality Devices” review:

“But here’s the caveat: PSP and the DS need to be complemented with accessories such as camera, as well as accelerometers, positioning and ubiquitous connectivity capabilities – to be able to play in this game.”

Well, Nintendo is racing forward towards the fifth position (MIDs), leaving Sony in the rear view mirror.

Nikkei does point out that the camera function of DS could be integrated with gameplay, by allowing games to use the photos taken with the hardware.

Here’s your confirmation. Augmented Reality applications can be built for the next DS. Who’s going to take up the challenge?

On a related note, Gizmondo is serious about making a come back; like the phoenix, it’s rising from the ashes and promises to hit the stores this Winter.

It’s going to be a hot winter.

Live from ISMAR ’08: Near-Eye Displays – a Look into the Christmas Ball

The third day of ISMAR ’08, the world’s best augmented reality event, is unfolding with what we expect to be an eye popping keynote (pun intended) by Rolf R. Hainich, author of The End of Hardware.

He is introduced as an independent research and started to work on AR in the early ’90s – so he could be considered as a pioneer…

A question on everyone’s mind is: Why Christmas ball and not a Crystal ball?

Rolf jumps on stage and starts with a quick answer: Christmas balls can help produce concave mirrors – useful for near eye displays.

First near eye display was created in 1968 by Ivan Sutherland; in 1993 an HMD for out of cockpit view was built in a Tornado simulator. In 2008, we see multiple products such as NVIS, Zeiss HOE glasses, Lumus, Microvision, but Rolf doesn’t consider them as true products for consumers.

Rolf ,defined the requirements for a near eye display back in 1994. It included: Eye tracker, camera based position sensing, dynamic image generator, registration, mask display, holographic optics. And don’t forget no screws, handles, straps ,etc…

He then presents several visions of the future of human machine interaction which he dubs 3D operating system.Then he briefly touches on the importance of sound, economy and ecology – and how near eye displays could save so much hardware, power, and help protect the environment.

But it requires significant investment. This investment will come from home and office applications (because of economies of scale- other markets such as military, medical, etc – will remain niche markets.

The next argument relates to the technology: Rolf gives examples of products such as memory, displays, cell phones, cameras which experienced dramatic improvements and miniaturization over the last years. And here is the plug for his famous joke: Today, I could tape cell phones on my eyes and they would be lighter than the glasses I use to wear 10 years ago…

Now, he schemes through different optional optical designs with mirrors, deflectors, scanners, eye tracker chips, etc (which you can review in his book The End of Hardware) These design could support a potential killer app – eye operated cell phone…

Microvision website is promoting such a concept (not a product), mostly to get the attention of phone manufacturers, according to Rolf.

Rolf, then tackles mask displays, a thorny issue for AR engineers and suggests it can achieve greater results than you would expect.

Eye Tracking is necessary to adjust the display based on where the eye is pointing. It’s once thing that AR didn’t inherit from VR. But help could come from a different disciplines – computer mouse which have become pretty good at tracking motion.

Other considerations such as Aperture, focus adjustment (should be mechanical), eye controller, are all solvable in Rolf’s book.

Squint and Touch – we usually look where we want to touch, so by following the eye we could simplify the user interface significantly.

Confused? Rolf is just getting started and dives effortlessly into lasers, describing what exists and what needs to be done. It should be pretty simple to use. And if it’s not enough, holographic displays could do the job. Rolf has the formulas. It’s just a matter of building it.

he now takes a step back and looking at the social impact of this new technology: when everybody “wears” anybody can be observed. The big brother raises its ugly head. Privacy is undermined, Copyright issues get out of control. But…resistance is futile.

Rolf wraps up with a quick rewind and fast forward describing the technology ages: PC emerged in the 80’s, AR in the 2020’s, and chip implants (Matrix style) will rule in the 2050.

Question: It didn’t look like the end of hardware…

Rolf: it’s the end of the conventional hardware – we will still have hardware but it could be 1000 times lighter.

Tom Drummond (from the audience): there is still quite a lot of work to get these displays done and there is still some consumer resistance to put on these head up displays…

Rolf: People wear glasses even for the disco – it’s a matter of fashion and of making it light – with the right functionality.

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From the ISMAR ’08 Program:

Speaker: Rolf R. Hainich, Hainich&Partner, Berlin

We first have a look at the development of AR in the recent 15 years and its current state. Given recent advances in computing and micro system technologies, it is hardly conceivable why AR technology should not finally be entering into mass market applications, the only way to amortize the development of such a complex technology. Nevertheless, achieving a ‘critical mass’ of working detail solutions for a complete product will still be a paramount effort, especially concerning hardware. Addressing this central issue, the current status of hardware technologies is reviewed, including micro systems, micro mechanics and special optics, the requirements and components needed for a complete system, and possible solutions providing successful applications that could catalyze the evolution towards full fledged, imperceptible, private near eye display and sensorial interface systems, allowing for the everyday use of virtual objects and devices greatly exceeding the capabilities of any physical archetypes.