Samsung Galaxy Tab – When AR Becomes a Selling Point, We Won

Does this ad mark the transformation of augmented reality from being a term used by the tech-elite to one used by the commons?

Online Image Learning – The Next Big Leap in Mobile AR?

Mobile, image recognition based, augmented reality is very cool, as evident from the Popcode’s demos we posted yesterday. However, creation of a model used by the mobile phone to recognize a new image still requires a desktop, hindering realtime creation and sharing of AR content.

Thanks to the work of researchers from the Korean Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology and the Swiss EPFL, this needn’t be the case anymore. In a paper titled “Point-and-Shoot for Ubiquitous Tagging on Mobile Phones” accepted to ISMAR 2010, they present a method to scan surfaces and create “recognition-models” by using your phone (no data is sent to a remote server).

You don’t even need to take the perfect straight-on picture. As the video below shows, this means you can augment hard to reach surfaces. Best of all, you can share those models with your friends.

A little bit more detail over Wonwoo Lee’s blog.

Popcode Pops into the AR Scene

The young British company, Extra Reality Ltd. (founded this June) has posted a couple of very impressive demos of its first product Popcode. With the goal of commercializing AR research done in the University of Cambridge, Popcode is a combination of marker based and marker less approaches. First the user needs to scan an easily identifiable code which causes her mobile to download a model used to register and augment a marker-less image. The registration seems quite robust:

The best thing is that Extra Reality provide an SDK to develop your own AR models, which can then be uploaded to their servers to be identified by clients worldwide. And it’s free for non-commercial use.
I’m a bit worried about their marker code, though, as it seems to contain a very limited number of bits. If Popcode becomes hugely successful (and I really hope so), they’ll have to come up with another scheme.
Sadly, it’s only available for Android right now, so I can’t really test it (hey, benevolent sponsors to be, this is a call for help!).
See more demos at Popcode’s website.

Gundam Robots in Augmented Reality

This post can be summarized by three magic terms:

  • Augmented Reality
  • Giant Robots
  • Yahoo Japan

Yes, it seems that the Japanese branch of Yahoo is much cooler than its American counter part. They have recently announced the coming release of a free iPhone application set to display a virual Zaku II mecha from the animated series Gundam (and sorry if I get this wrong, I’ve never seen it).
Interestingly enough the application is both image-recognition based and GPS/compass based. It will show the mecha when the iPhone camera will be directed at the (real) 18-meter tall Gundam statue in Shizuoka, Japan, and when the camera is pointed at a special marker.

For more details check out Anime News Network. Via Development Memo for Ourselves.

iWatermelon – Augmented Ripeness Checker

Augmented reality. Once used to improve the construction of jet planes. Now it improves your chances of finding a ripe watermelon.

Available on the appstore and costs only a buck.
(and yes, I find it more augmented reality than many visual applications we have seen this last year. Although lacking a visual integration, it does extend your senses, and it has more interaction with reality than that firefighter game)

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!

Going to the Augmented Museum

Simple, useful and probably feasible (though not on the iPhone) AR application in the following concept video by Tate Strickland an American graphic design student:

Locatory – Play with Gamaray

Editor note: OOPS!
Originally this post was scheduled for early December, but somehow I forgot to publish it. Sorry Locatory guys!
——-

As veteran readers of this blog surely know, official development of Gamaray, an AR browser for Android was terminated, and its code has been open-sourced. Recently I’ve learned about an interesting project by a team from the Open University of the Netherlands, named Locatory, based on Gamaray’s code.

The game’s premise is admittedly not that exciting –

The concept of game is rather easy. Players can compete with each other and gather cards that are hidden in augmented reality. Once a card is taken, it can be dropped at a physical location (figure 3, B). When a card is dropped at the correct location, the player receives a point. (source)

but it’s exciting to see that one can create (semi) augmented reality games in relative ease (especially since Locatory’s own code is freely available). After all, how far is a game such as Locatory from a geo-caching game? If I were a student these days, I would have a go at it (adult life is full of compromises :/).

Learn more here.

iButterfly – Augmented Coupons with Wings

I really fancy this next iPhone app. It’s called iButterfly and it transforms the habit of collecting coupons into a fun little game. Created by Japan’s Mobile Art Lab, the app tasks its users with catching virtual butterflies , each representing one or more coupons. You can even share
“butterflies” with your friends via Bluetooth.

Though the technology is not overwhelming (GPS based), the overall execution looks great, see for yourself:

Via MobileBehavior

Augmented Reality, Newspapers’ Last Best Hope?

We all know the future looks quite bleak for newspapers and journals. Many publications have already fallen victims to the predatory internet with its free, easily accessible and real time reports. Some have speculated that newspapers must either over-specialize or abandon their offline presence in order to survive the coming decade.

However, there’s another option – forming a merger between an online and an offline presence, via augmented reality. We’ve already seen Esquire toying with such a concept, but now a daily newspaper in Switzerland has made a giant leap ahead.

Since this Wednesday, every page of the Swiss Blick newspaper can be scanned using Kooaba, an iPhone/Android application. Once scanned and identified, the user can see additional information about the articles or ads visible in the page, add them to her online library, and share with friends. Remember, this is not a single issue being augmented, but rather every issue from now on will have this extra layer of information.

Follow the link to see a video of Blick being augmented, but since that video can’t be embeded, here’s another one, showcasing Kooaba’s technology:

More information here.