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!

HoloToy Hologram for iPhone and iPad

Augmented reality is all about illusion.  Most applications project graphics on the real world.  But this HoloToy creates the illusion of a real space within iPhone or iPad, similar to the LevelHead game from last year.  The game has a number of modes including a Scarab Attack game, floating planets and a pet robot to interact with.  Most of them can be seen in this video.

iPhone OS4 to have Video Stream Access

Though I’m not completely believing it until the OS4 actually comes out and the video access is really in there, but the announcement from Steve Jobs today on the OS4 details included that tasty little gem.

The developer preview is available right now and the release of OS4 will happen sometime “this summer.”

Hopefully this happens, unlike the OS3.1 promises that turned into vapor by release date.  I’m crossing my fingers.

Augmented Driving on your iPhone

For you experienced developers, the first question you’ll be asking is, “how are they going to do a car HUD without video access on the iPhone.”  So I’ll answer that question first.

Currently, video recording is not yet supported. However, the system takes snapshots of the screen at different intervals. The standard interval is set to about 10 seconds. If one vehicle is tracked this interval is reduced to 5 seconds. If a vehicle is close ahead or more than one vehicle is tracked, a snapshot is taken every 2 seconds.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk features on this new product from imaGinyze (though technically, its only submitted to the App Store and not yet out for purchase.)

The app does a pretty good job of tracking the lane you’re in, speeds, and distance to other cars.   And it switches between units easily for which ever side of the pond you’re on.  The app provides additional safety features giving you a lane switch warning, though if it switches between the 10 second frame interval then its not going to work so well.  Yet another reason Apple needs to give up the goods on the video access.

The functionality of the app shows what the GM windshield might do to improve the safety of its vehicles.  Though I really wish it would give that “Vehicle Ahead” warning to the a-hole tailgating me on the open highway and not to me.

More information:

Augmented Driving for your iPhone 3GS including the following features:

– Dynamic augmented reality overlays for lanes and vehicles
– Head-up display (HUD) for system and status information
– Lane detection and lane change warning
– Vehicle detection and low distance information
– System auto-calibration for easy setup
– Many configuration options and quick manual

The system is designed to work in good lighting conditions during daytime for visible lane markings on highways and country roads and for detection of regular cars. For operation, a fix mount is required.

Augmented Reality at CES 2010

Thursday begins the Consumer Electronics Show 2010, the gadget-head show of the year.  While the Nexus One has all the buzz going into the show and 3D TV will probably be the talk of it, readers of Games Alfresco will want to know what to expect from CES2010 for augmented reality. 

Overall, there’s not going to be any big surprises for augmented reality, but there will be some products that will help further the cause. 

AR Drone

The combination of self-adjusting mini-helicopter and augmented reality interface has turned this little toy into quite the buzz maker pre-show for the device maker Parrot (so much so the website is currently crashed due to traffic.)  The drone has two cameras that can connect to an iPhone or iTouch through a wi-fi network. 

The Drone was introduced Tuesday and attracted the biggest crowd.  This creative application of AR really shows what’s possible using well placed cameras and some ingenuity.  The price or released date hasn’t been announced but it’s expected in late 2010. 

Tablets

Microsoft & HP are expected to release a tablet during the 2010 show while Apple plans to release theirs afterwards.  Tablets are interactive stylish screens that are supposed to be the next wave of portable computers.  Their built-in webcam, wi-fi, processor speeds and portability will give augmented reality the option to upside the “magic lens.”  Redmondpie website has supposed leaked specifications that include a projector which would allow Sixth Sense type AR. 

The supposed iSlate or iPad (really how hard is it to sound like you’ve found leaked Apple information by adding an “i” in front of a random techy word) will need to have GPS, accelerometer, and a compass to truly be AR ready.  Otherwise, the only thing the tablet will be able to do is object recognition and marker-based AR. 

TVs with Cameras

The stealthier possible boon for augmented reality might be in the form infusing TVs with computer sensibilities.  The Skype tool is looking to add webcams to HD TVs for video-calls.  With TVs having wi-fi access, computer processors and downloadable widgets, TV-apps could be a huge market for augmented reality.  The technology would have to be marker and object recognition based, but the stationary setting could allow for creative products like the Sony EyePet without having to fork-out $400 for the PS3.  I’m sure the furry-crowd would love to talk to each other on video-Skype, augmented to look like their favorite animal. 

In general, we’re not going to have an OMFG moment from the CES 2010.  There could be a few surprises similar to the AR Drone, but mostly we’ll grind out more processing power, camera speeds and other un-sexy improvements that will help make augmented reality better.

What I Want For Augmented Reality in 2010

I was going to expand on my predictions that Rouli had posted on Games Alfresco because, frankly, they were pretty lame (mine and not the other nine, those were good.)  But decided that there have been enough predictions for 2010.  So instead, I want to go over the things I want to happen in 2010 in regards to augmented reality.   

1. I want the Nexus One phone from Google to be untethered, cheap and make AR apps fun.

2. I want to be surprised by an AR ready HMD.

3. I want to see fun, creative AR games that are across all platforms and come at an affordable price. 

4. I want the AR inspection assist project I’m working on with Metaio to go flawlessly and for it to revolutionize the way we do difficult inspection job at Toyota and make it easier on our team members. 

5. I want Google Goggles to be a database that other programs can use for pattern recognition and markerless tracking.

6. I want to attend ISMAR10 even though its all the way over in South Korea.

7. I want the ISMAR09 presentations to be put up on YouTube so we can see all the great things that happened.

8. I want Apple to free their live video API for better AR on the iPhone.

9. I want to know what Neogence Enterprises has been working on all these years. 

10. I want to continue to make Games Alfresco the hands-down, defacto source for all your augmented reality news. 

So for all you programmers and entrepreneurs working on the latest in augmented reality tech, even though I may put up your YouTube video or link to your webpage and make semi-snarky comments about its usefulness or how its so-2009, I certainly appreciate your hard work.  Unless you were just mailing it in hoping to capitalize on the AR buzz, then you deserve it and then some.  For all of you in the former category, I leave you with my two favorite quotes to keep you going when things get tough:

All courses of action are risky, so prudence is no in avoiding danger (it’s impossible), but calculating risk and acting decisively.  Make mistakes of ambition and not mistakes of sloth.  Develop the strength to do bold things, not the strength to suffer. 

   — Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince

IT IS NOT THE CRITIC WHO COUNTS: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.  The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again…who spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly. 

   — Teddy Roosevelt

Apple See-Through Augmented Reality HMD Glasses

The January issue of Mac Life sports a fauxtograph of possible Apple augmented reality HMD glasses. It’s hard to know how much of this article is based on concept, but Apple working on an AR HMD would be a huge jumpstart to the nascent technology.

In mid-April of 2008, Apple published a patent for a “Head Mounted Display System.”  The patent shows screens and fiber optics and vision imaging controls.  Would the display use pico projection or utilize OLED displays?  Pico displays could be used right now, but OLEDs might be a year out.

Would Apple make HMD goggle for augmented reality?  Looking back at this 2006 interview on MacSimumNews, we can see that Steve Jobs was already considering it.  Given that he also denies Apple is looking at a HMD practically guarantees they have something in the works. 

Jobs: Yes, you want a nice big screen so that you can see lots of music and you can pick out what you want, versus a tiny little screen. But then again, you want the screen to be small so that you can put it in your pocket. Actually, discovering and buying music on a computer and downloading it to the iPod—in our opinion, that’s one of the geniuses of the iPod. So you can look at changing that—and maybe that will happen over time—but I think the experience you’ll get on a device optimized for putting in your pocket is going to be far less satisfactory than on a personal computer. You may still want to do that [on a small screen] occasionally, but I don’t think it’s ever going to mean that you can not have some other device that is your primary device for buying and cataloguing music.

Swisher: What would solve that? Can it be solved?

Jobs: Rollable screens, goggles you can put on; I don’t know. It’s not on the horizon.

Given Apple’s trademark secrecy, it’s a huge unknown if MacLife’s article is pure speculation or its based on some real knowledge.  We do know that Apple has patented aspects of an AR HMD, so it’s not crazy to think they might come out with one.  With tons of augmented reality applications hitting the market, I can’t imagine that Apple will wait too long to unveil their AR glasses to grab a critical market lead.  All the pieces of the technology are available as we speak and I’m not the only one to notice this (read PatentlyApple).   

Microvision, Vuzix and Lumus are telling us to wait until 2011 for AR HMDs, but if Apple gets involved, we just might see it happen in 2010.

Augmented Reality iPhone Sudoku Grab

I thought the purpose of Sudoku was a time killer and exercise for the brain.  If you’re more interested in having a filled out booklet on the coffee table to impress your friends and family then this augmented reality iPhone Sudoku Grab can quickly analyze the board and give you the answers. 

When AR computing technologies become more ubiquitous, you won’t ever want to let your friends wear their AR glasses during any board game because there will certainly be helper-agents to plan the next move.  And I for one am waiting for the Scrabble-helper so I can quickly figure out what seven letter words I have.

Buzz, Buzz: Augmented Reality Mosquitoes All Around Your iPhone

Vincent Verwey is happy to report that his new augmented reality game  has just been approved on the app store. It’s called Mosquitoes.

It lets you kill pesky mosquitoes flying around you in virtual space.
Watch through the camera and you see tens of mosquitoes around you. On the
ceiling, hovering above the floor, on your left and to your right.

The game uses the compass and accelerometer (works on 3GS only) for a realistic augmented reality effect. The animated mosquitoes are projected in the real world,
which you see through the camera lens.

There are two modes:

1) Shoot Out. Kill as many mosquitoes as you can in just two minutes.

2) Precision. You get only 10 bullets and 10 mosquitoes. Don’t waste your ammunition and don’t waste time.


Here is more info about Mosquitoes from Makayama Software.

Or for just 99 cents you can get it yourself on the app store.

I did.
I can’t get enough augmented reality games on my iPhone.

Mosquitoes is based on a similar game mechanic as we have seen with Arcade Reality: alien space ships (or here mosquitoes) appear randomly around you, seemingly registered in 3D space (but not truly aligned with real life objects). It’s pretty addictive and sure makes you move (as well as behave like a deranged monkey ;)

Arcade Reality is very low brow, reminiscent of early arcade B games (and parents tend to ban it from their kids for safety issues), however it’s radar view makes the game a tad more interesting than Mosquitoes. Plus I’d rather listen to an 8 bit sound track than to mosquitoes buzzing nervously around me…

AR history buffs among you would remember that Mosquitoes is not the first AR game to use, um…mosquitoes.

Mozzies (also known as Mosquito Hunt) was developed for the Siemens SX1 launch in 2003. The mosquitoes were superimposed on the live video feed from the camera. Mozzies was awarded the title of best mobile game in 2003.

Metaio Announcing Mobile Augmented Reality Platform – Junaio

junaio_screen

Metaio, Inc. Will Launch Its Mobile Augmented Reality Platform junaio On November 2nd San Francisco, September 18th 2009 – Today, metaio officially announced the launch date of junaio, its mobile augmented reality platform. On November 2nd, the leading company in augmented reality will release a first version exclusively for the iPhone. More features will be released soon after, including capabilities on the Android and Symbian platforms. junaio will change the way we create, access and share information. By combining innovative online and mobile technologies, junaio will allow users to see location-based content through the display of a mobile device. Users can leave traces, messages or objects and visually interact with their friends or anyone else in the world. Already existing web services can be enhanced and completely new ways of interaction can be created. Whether it is social networks, multimedia content or game concepts – virtually anything can be embedded in the real world and connected to a certain place. “The possibilities are endless, we are taking the Internet outside to the real world,” says Thomas Alt, Chief Executive Officer of metaio. Seeing location-based multimedia content through the display of your mobile device is only one part of the story. “Mobile augmented reality is all about the user´s orientation. But to deliver a really useful and robust application, you have to be user oriented,” says Peter Meier, Chief Technology Officer. metaio is defining a new dimension in mobile augmented reality through incorporation of features that will allow better usability and social interaction. junaio is the result of more than six years application development in augmented reality and months of research and usability tests for mobile applications. So get ready for the ultimate Outernet experience!

For more information and updates, please refer to: www.junaio.com