10 Cool Things Going On Right Now in Augmented Reality

Augmented reality has come a long way in a years time.  Last year I got excited by research projects and gimmicky AR webcam advertising, but that quickly faded on the tenth plus iteration.  It wasn’t until July that we starting having real AR products in the form of apps.  Nearly a year later and still early in the development of the AR ecosystem, we’re seeing a more diverse use of the technology and that has me excited again.  So I want to take a moment to go over ten cool things going on right now in augmented reality.

1. Battle of the AR Browsers

Wikitude, Layar, Tonchidot, Junaio, TagWhat and others hope to be the standard for the AR browser market.  Layar has recently upped the ante with an AR content store and TagWhat takes it in a new direction by combining lessons learned with Foursquare and Twitter.  I suspect one of the big boys like Google, Twitter or Facebook will eventually either create their own or co-opt the ideas from these early browsers into their current products.  I’m not sure which horse to bet on in this race, but in the end we customers are the winners.

2. DIY Portable Augmented Reality Headset

Using an Eye-Trek video headset, the guy at Tailormadetoys made a pair of AR glasses.  I love the DIY culture and while they’re not see-through, I think all the right parts to make one are out there.  This post from Team Hack-a-Day proves that the DIY makers are getting close, so why can’t one of the big makers get it done?

3. The AR phone – Ouidoo

The specs on this Ouidoo QderoPateo smartphone are in the WTF!? zone.  While the phone won’t be out until the fall, the company claims it’ll have a 26-core CPU capable of 8-gigaflop floating point operations and include  512MB RAM, 4GB ROM, 28GB of built-in storage, microSD expansion, Bluetooth, WiFi, GPS, built-in 3D map, accelerometer, digital compass, 5-megapixel camera with flash, 220 hours of standby battery life, and a sharp 3.5-inch 800 x 480 screen.  Whew.

While I’m not completely believing the hype, and it could end up being vaporware, it certainly looks promising.  Though it’ll have to work hard to compete with the likes of the iPhone and Droid.

4. Eyeborg

Bionic eyes and augmented reality.  It’s like peanut better and chocolate!  Rob Spence is putting a camera into his eye to make movies with (and because its just plain cool.)  And he’s also interested in combining augmented reality with his eye camera.  They’ve come up with a promotional AR eyeborg t-shirt in the meantime.

Eyeborg’s New AR shirt in action!

5. ARE2010

Bruce Sterling, Will Wright, Marco Tempest, and the list goes on.  It pains me to say that I won’t be able to make the inaugural event.  I had a work conflict with that week, so I have to bow out of hosting the panel on AR glasses.  But for the rest of you, I hope you’ll be able to make it.  With AR on the rise and viable business options a-plenty, it’s a good time to network and see what everyone is doing with the nascent technology.  This is the “can’t miss” AR event of the year.

6. ARWave

Our favorite interviewer Tish Shute and longtime commenter Thomas Wrobel have been sheparding the AR Wave project and collaborating with people all over the globe.  While it’s still too early to tell, this could end up being one of the most important AR developments out there if they can truly create an open source way of using AR.  As they’ve been telling everyone, they’re trying to make a system that:

* Anyone can make content

* Anyone can make a browser

* Anyone can run a server

7. iPhone OS4.0

It almost pains me to get excited about an iPhone update that promises video access to make real AR work on that smartphone.  We got fooled last September with the OS3.1.  I’m hoping we don’t get fooled again (unless you’re the Who.)

8. Haptic AR floors

I’m not even entirely sure if haptic floors fit into the augmented reality spectrum, but it’s so crazy weird and true, that I had to include it.  I seriously doubt we’ll be seeing a commercial product anytime soon though (or ever.)

9. AR Drone

While the news on the AR drone is a stale few months old, I still think it warrants inclusion because it was a great product.  The hovercraft alone was worth the price of admission, but the AR added a creative twist to it.  I have no idea if it sold well, but it sure did capture the imaginations of a lot of geeks.

10. You choose!

Let us know what you think is the coolest thing going in augmented reality right now.  Whether it’s a product only hinted at or one currently residing on your smartphone, we’d like to hear it.  So let us know here at Games Alfresco in the comment section!

Augmented Reality in 2010: The People have Spoken

2010 is here (we are living in the future!) and it’s time to take a look at our survey published a month ago, asking for your predictions for the coming year.

Well, the results speaks for themselves. 3 out of 4 responders, believe that the buzz will only grow around augmented reality in 2010 (though nineteen were brave enough to think differently). You bet on augmented games and porn, but you don’t buy into the prospect of cool HMDs, making access to such applications easier. And although most of you count on Google to make a major AR play (which, well, is not a prediction but rather a fact), you surely don’t believe this will cause a consolidation in the AR browser market.
Hopefully, we will revisit this post and the other post in this series next year and see who get what right. Till then, have a happy new year!

Augmented Reality in 2010: Ori Inbar’s Predictions (Part 10)

Well, if you read this blog you probably don’t need me to introduce Ori Inbar. But if you don’t already know him, he’s the founder of Games Alfresco and a whole lot of other things. Here are his predictions:

  1. Bruce Sterling will secure his position in the history books as THE evangelist of the augmented reality movement
  2. Blair MacIntyre will start a successful AR game company but will still miss the good ‘ol days at Georgia Tech (just announced! new company is Aura)
  3. Georg Klein will launch an amazing mobile AR proof of concept that will inject Microsoft into the AR limelight (the product will only get commercial years later)
  4. 10x AR users over 2009 (i.e. ten times more AR users than in 2009)
  5. 10x AR apps over 2009
  6. 10x total AR industry revenue over 2009
  7. 10x total investments in AR start ups over 2009
  8. The center of the AR world (according to Google trends) will shift from East Asia (South Korea) to the West (US and EU)
  9. At least one major chip manufacturer will announce the inclusion of AR capabilities on its chip
  10. In 2008 we predicted that “2009 will be the year where AR breaks from the lab and gets in the hands of consumers”. Totally happened! (but very few are really using it…)

2010 will be the year where consumers fall in love with AR – start using it in their daily lives and enjoy it!

Now, if there is someone with a lot of inside information about the industry, that’s Ori. So I’ll take his predictions very seriously. The prediction about investment should be easy enough to check – we should see at least $50 million in investments in 2010. Let’s hope so!

So, that’s it folks. Our last predictions post for this series (unless someone will suddenly send me another one). Remember, the poll is open till January 1st, so cast in your votes for what you think is most probable to come true in 2010.

Previously:
AR in 2010 Part 1 – What’s your opinion? – Our online poll
AR in 2010 Part 2 – Crazy predictions that might come true.
AR in 2010 Part 3 – Thomas Wrobel’s predictions.
AR in 2010 Part 4 – Augmented Planet’s Lester Madden’s predictions.
AR in 2010 Part 5 – The Future Digital Life’s Thomas Carpenter’s predictions.
AR in 2010 Part 6 – Noah Zerkin’s predictions.
AR in 2010 Part 7 – Gene Becker’s predictions.
AR in 2010 Part 8 – Augmented.org’s Toby Kammann’s predictions.
AR in 2010 Part 9 – A Look Indoors.

Augmented Reality in 2010: A Look Indoors (Part 9)

I was delighted to see that Patched Reality’s Patrick O’Shaughnessey answered my call and shared his augmented reality related predictions for 2010 in his company blog. It’s Patrick’s first prediction that I find most interesting (though all of them are very good). While many of our prior columns in this series had predictions about how AR will change the way we see the outside world, Patrick reminds us there’s use for indoors AR:

While AR browsers like Layar and Wikitude will continue to focus their attention on discovering information that is in the world at large, another class of AR applications will emerge that helps people see what could be in the comfort of their own home. We’ll see a lot more applications released by manufacturers that sell products that go in people’s homes. These applications will be more sophisticated than the recent IKEA campaign in Germany, as they will make use of the actual smartphone video stream to make sense of the user’s environment, and also allow people to purchase the products they’ve previewed right within the app.
Products that people will be able to “try before they buy” will run the gamut from furniture, artwork, electronics, window treatments, clothing, and maybe even paint colors. This type of application will be to 2010 what the “hold a marker up to your webcam to see a marketing message” was in 2009. And there will likely be both good and bad executions of the basic concept.

We actually saw the early seeds of indoors AR in 2009 with such offerings as virtual electronics, virtual eyewear, virtual shoes, virtual jewlery, virtual furniture and many more, all can be tried on in the comfort of your own home. Coincidentally, I’ve recently spotted this demo from 4th Wall Technologies that shows “augmented renovoation”. Though the technology is not very exciting, the use of a tablet pc really seems to fit this purpose:

Ironically, accurate registration and image recognition may not be the main issue preventing AR from coming indoors. After a conversation with a friend it became apparent to me, that scanning items in order to create a 3d representation is a real roadblock for retailers on the route to selling via AR,

Joins us tomorrow for the final installation in our series, when Ori Inbar shares his predictions for 2010. Don’t forget to take part in our predictions-poll if you haven’t done so yet.
Previously:
AR in 2010 Part 1 – What’s your opinion? – Our online poll
AR in 2010 Part 2 – Crazy predictions that might come true.
AR in 2010 Part 3 – Thomas Wrobel’s predictions.
AR in 2010 Part 4 – Augmented Planet’s Lester Madden’s predictions.
AR in 2010 Part 5 – The Future Digital Life’s Thomas Carpenter’s predictions.
AR in 2010 Part 6 – Noah Zerkin’s predictions.
AR in 2010 Part 7 – Gene Becker’s predictions.
AR in 2010 Part 8 – Augmented.org’s Toby Kammann’s predictions.

Toby Kammann: Augmented Reality in 2010 (Part 8)

Today we are lucky to have Tobias D. Kammann shares his predictions with us. Toby is not a stranger to augmented reality, and is involved in the field since 2002. Currently he is a lead AR developer at RTT (which we mentioned just the other day) and the man behind augmented.org one of the first blogs about augmented reality and still one of the best.

Toby was generous enough to write a post full of predictions. Therefore, for sake of readability, I chose not to put his words in “blockquote”, and just paste them below. I know it’s long, but it’s well worth the read. Many of his predictions are original and if only half of them come true, we are going to have a very exciting year.

2009
…was definitely the year of AR awareness for the public. Lots of people heard the first time of the term and had their first experience with the technology on fairs, shop windows or with smartphone fun. So many magazines interviewing us, the AR community, and so many agencies hacking their own presentations.

2010
Technology-wise I’m a bit pessimistic on AR handheld device development and HMD/HUD news for the public to be frank. I’m expecting a HMD to hit the market late 2010 and some early adopters running around with it in the tube, but it won’t be a landslide e.g. as the iphone-in-everyones-pocket in the US.

My two most probable predictions for 2010 (not judging) were already taken by rouli (Augmented Playboy and Apple patenting AR) – but anyway, just for the fun I’ll collect some more ideas:

Interaction changing
With project Natal’s release the term AR will get another push forward as the Wii had with input when it came out. Natal games combining the camera with the motion capturing system will gain popularity and will become the default way of having fun in your living room. As an outcome more and more researchers and companies will focus on easy interaction paradigms. People will start getting annoyed with joysticks or things to grab. They will expect gesture waving interaction instead of multitouch. If you don’t offer gesture interaction as an agency you are not cool anymore. Architecture AR Projections and Digital City Art will expand much much more and people will expect an easy interaction, too. If you can only LOOK at augmented city installations agencies will get bad criticism. It has to be interactive – even in this huge scale.

Google
Google’s goggle and their own device will push the community forward and people will extend the location GPS based services through image recognition features due to faster hardware. Google’s NDK and 4x faster CPUs will not only drain the battery but also offer speed-ups for mobile AR apps. Waiting periods will be reduced and more and more people will choose a smartphone over an old candybar. People will forget to caption their images, to remember names or to memorize bus schedules. Everybody will have his nomenclature in his or her pocket to work as a personal assistant (PA). A battle will start among life-supporting PA information providers and social ostracism will occur when your peer group uses GoogleAR-PA over AppleAR-PA… Companies will exploit this target group idea ruthlessly.

Social Implications
A big social discussion will be triggered when google launches their HMD device connected to Android. People will form strikes and rallies against technology addiction. A huge discussion splits the community for people claiming that google misuses the user’s HMD cameras to track the whole world in real-time. If you don’t opt-out, your vision will be part of the whole google community and will be used for a pedestrianStreetView add-on and image search. Plus, the first AR-PA-addiction-self-help group will be founded. People complain in Jerry Springer and others about their loved ones not remembering friend’s names nor dates nor streetnames without their augmentations. At least one church will start a witch hunt against AR technology being evil.

Mass Competence
Another mobile AR app will gain the popularity as big as facebook’s and draw people into the system. Finally all big mobile AR apps will support a common interface and the social connectivity will be the only interesting thing for the crowd. You will hardly see anyone go “WOW” in 2010 over a tweet floating above your friend. The masses will become AR pros and ask the same questions that -so far- only we were asking. It won’t be enough to show low-poly 3D in your view.

Moving PictARs
Realism will gain a level of detail that makes movie makers cry. As an antidote Warner decides to start a new way of film making by letting people in real-time experience a movie like blair witch project with AR systems. A new genre arises and a silly term will get coined, like “Moving PictARs”. The social experience will yield in different outcomes of a storyline, giving headaches to movie critics writing their reports.

OK, that’s my quick overview. I’m definitely hoping for fast 3D feature tracking on a outdoor/global scale and for real-time lighting to be quick enough for a 100% convincing integration of AR. For me the most important issue is the output device, where we unfortunately have a long road to go before we have Denn? Coil… Damnit! ”

[editor note: wow!]

Previously:
AR in 2010 Part 1 – What’s your opinion? – Our online poll
AR in 2010 Part 2 – Crazy predictions that might come true.
AR in 2010 Part 3 – Thomas Wrobel’s predictions.
AR in 2010 Part 4 – Augmented Planet’s Lester Madden’s predictions.
AR in 2010 Part 5 – The Future Digital Life’s Thomas Carpenter’s predictions.
AR in 2010 Part 6 – Noah Zerkin’s predictions.
AR in 2010 Part 7 – Gene Becker’s predictions.

Gene Becker: Augmented Reality in 2010 (Part 7)

Oops, I’ve lost count, and yesterday’s predictions by Noah Zerkin were part 6 of our ongoing series. Which means today is part 7, and I’m delighted to say we have Gene Becker with us today. Gene is a veteran in the field of ubiquitus computing and the founder of Lightning Laboratories a consulting company focusing on AR, ubicomp and social media. He also writes at The Connected World and on Twitter. Again, Gene sent me his predictions just days before Google Goggles became public.

  • Mobile AR will get a popularity boost when Groundspeak supports virtual AR caches in its Geocaching iPhone app.
  • The most active category of mobile AR apps will be multiplayer real-world games (MMARGs???) and at least one major global brand campaign will be built around an AR-based ARG (remember Halo 2 and ilovebees?).
  • Commercial AR will continue to be dominated by startups and small companies. The giant companies will make a lot of noise and attend lots of conferences, but won’t really ship anything interesting. However, one of the biggies (Nokia or Google) may well acquire a mobile AR startup with leading market presence or IP position.
  • 2010 will be a great year for AR-based art, with the highlight being an extravagant audio & graphic AR piece by Banksy overlaid on the city of Bristol, England.
  • Open AR services that allow user-generated augments will struggle with a plague of spARm, porn, and abuse of corporate brands.
  • The first legal dispute over physical/virtual property rights will arise due to an offensive AR posting above a commercial location. The courts will struggle to comprehend.
  • We will finally stop worrying about whether an app is “really AR”, and embrace location & context-aware audio, physical hyperlinks, GPS+compass local search etc as all part of our big happy connected world AR family.
  • There won’t be any AR sunglasses, sorry kids.

I for one am really waiting for the Banksy’s AR piece, and will be here to cover live the first AR related legal dispute. What are you looking for in the coming year?

Previously:
AR in 2010 Part 1 – What’s your opinion? – Our online poll
AR in 2010 Part 2 – Crazy predictions that might come true.
AR in 2010 Part 3 – Thomas Wrobel’s predictions.
AR in 2010 Part 4 – Augmented Planet’s Lester Madden’s predictions.
AR in 2010 Part 5 – The Future Digital Life’s Thomas Carpenter’s predictions.
AR in 2010 Part 6 – Noah Zerkin’s predictions.

Noah Zerkin: Augmented Reality in 2010 (Part 6)

Noah Zerkin is best known as the inventor and developer of the Zerkin Glove, a low cost glove for interacting with virtual object in an augmented environment. In his spare time he also the author of Augmentation where he shares his views on the coming AR revolution, and works for the stealthy Integrated Realities.

Since it’s a long one, I took the liberty drop a prediction concerning Google’s intentions. Noah sent me his predictions just days before Goggles became public, and obviously that changes everything. Though I must say that Noah was right pointing out the Google will develop its own mobile application rather than buying an existing browser maker.

I feel a little shaky on this limb, but I’m going to wager that we will finally have see-through HUD glasses on the consumer market. I don’t know what their quality will be like, but I think we’ll be able to buy something. I’m hoping that having seen that recent seven hundred million figure, investors will make the connection that AR won’t be staying on cell phone screens indefinitely, and will show a little love to Lumus. Vuzix going public will also be a big step. Nokia, Sony, Apple, Konica Minolta, Canon, and Microvision are all putting R&D into display glasses. Microvision will be focused on their military contract with Lockheed for a while, and has already said that we can expect a product on the market in 2011. I doubt that that will be a consumer product, and will probably just be when their ULTRA-Vis research leads to a mass-produced fieldable military product.

I expect that we’ll see some step towards a more precise civilian positioning system in the US. I can’t speak to specifics, but AR is the first real consumer application where the lack of precision positioning presents a serious implementation problem. Up until now it’s really been about navigation or setting general local context, where there really wasn’t a good justification for investing in super-precise positioning. It may end up be something that relies on local infrastructure. I don’t necessarily see it being in consumer hands in 2010, but I think that there will be increasing awareness that this is something that we’ll need.

If we do see display glasses, I expect there’ll be some sort of wristband or wristband-and-thimble inertial interface device released shortly thereafter. Hell, I’ll be looking for ways to use the eZ430-Chronos with my rig as soon as that thing ships. It needn’t be a 1-to-1 device, but perhaps just something for gesture interpretation. We all seem to have gotten the hang of moving an on-screen cursor without looking at our hand, so once we’re wearing our monitor, I think we’ll want to do the same for the mouse.

Mobile phones with a next-gen Tegra chipset will make OpenCL and CUDA capabilities available in a pocketable package, and perhaps we’ll see OpenCV and other vision frameworks being updated to take advantage of them. I know the iPhone’s PowerVR GPU core already supports OpenCL, and if Apple ever opens up direct access to the camera framebuffer, maybe we’ll see it there, too. Or it may be that Apple really is stifling iPhone AR development because they’re working on something in-house. Perhaps they’re working on their own machine vision framework for the iPhone SDK. I don’t know. Anyhow, I think mobile GPU-accelerated machine vision will be something that we’ll probably see in the next year.

I’m obviously a pretty hardware-oriented guy, so those are a few things that jump to mind.

For software, I think we’re going to see mainstream mobile AR games. Lots of ’em. I think we’re going to see mobile multi-user, multi-device, multi-perspective games. I think we’ll see improvements in registration AR registration with the world.

With people like Tim O’Reilly showing huge personal interest AR, it’s hard to know what will happen. The possibilities and possible directions for “Augmented Reality: Year Two” (on the public radar) will be exponentially greater as enabling mobile hardware and low-level software become wider-spread and more mature. The path for Year One was easy enough to predict. Bruce Sterling and Robert Rice have both have both called it pretty well so far. But now we’re getting to the part where everyone jumps in and unless you’re giving your undivided attention, it’ll be hard to know who is going to emerge, with what, and when. Regardless, I expect that this will be the year when Apple, Microsoft, and Google’s larger AR strategies will begin to coalesce.

Anyhow, I don’t know if there’s anything unique, insightful, or concrete enough to make it worth making part of your piece. Lot’s of qualifiers in there ;-) I also don’t know if I’m in a position to make predictions, since I’ve been out of touch since starting my new job after ISMAR.

What’s your opinion? Don’t forget to take part in our predictions-poll!

Previously:
AR in 2010 Part 1 – What’s your opinion? – Our online poll
AR in 2010 Part 2 – Crazy predictions that might come true.
AR in 2010 Part 3 – Thomas Wrobel’s predictions
AR in 2010 Part 4 – Augmented Planet’s Lester Madden’s predictions.
AR in 2010 Part 5 – The Future Digital Life’s Thomas Carpenter’s predictions