2008 Wrap Up: Top 10 Milestones in Augmented Reality

2008 was a great year for augmented reality.

This emerging technology is on a 15-plus-year-long journey from the lab and into the mainstream. With too many events to list, 2008 marks an important year in that quest.

Here is the countdown of the top 10 most important AR milestones of 2008:

10) Otellini’s CES keynote showcases AR technology

The year started with the largest consumer electronics show CES. Total Immersion’s demo had the attention of the entire consumer electronics community during Otellini’s (Intel CEO) 2008 keynote.

9) Video game gurus recognize AR as the future of gaming

My personal idol in the game industry, Will Wright, delivered the best augmented reality quote of the year. When describing AR as the way of the future for games, he explained:

Games could increase our awareness of our immediate environment, rather than distract us from it”.

Futurist Bruce Sterling made controversial statements about games in 2043 in front of a developer only audience in the Austin Game Developer Conference . Here is one statement that stood above all:

“What do the games of 2043 look like? “I think you would call [them]  ‘augmented reality’”

8) ISMAR 2008

The world’s most important augmented reality event, ISMAR 2008, was more significant than ever. It  demonstrated, above all, the level of maturity AR research has reached.

7) High end mobile AR devices hit the market

2008 gave rise to a flood of new AR-worthy mobile devices: iPhone 3G (see below), Android based G1, Itelco’s IDOL, HTC’s Touch HD, Blackberry’s Storm, Nokia N97… It also signaled the dawn of hands free AR with prototype glasses and contact lens (see Top 10 devices.)


6) iPhone and App store

It might not be the best AR device but it certainly has the most buzz. In 2008, the iPhone was highly sought after by game developers and researchers. The App store which amassed 10,000 apps in half a year, offers an instant distribution model for AR games. In 2008, the iPhone was the gadget to beat.

5) Native mobile tracking engines released

AR engines and tools did not stay behind in 2008 and delivered new tracking engines for the hottest platforms du jour. Some notable examples include ARToolkit for iPhone, AR in Flash, and Studierstube ES for mobile phones. See the entire collection of engines and tools.

4) AR apps win acclaim in major competitions

AR made headlines in 2008 with 2 applications that dribbled into top 50 lists: Tonchidot made the Crunch50 and Wikitude made the Android 50 finalists. Total Immersion won another award at NVISION ’08 for Best Application of Visual Computing.


3) AR games win awards

Ghostwire may or may not be the first AR game to win a game award. But, 2008 was certainly the first year were 6 out 0f top 10 games were selected as finalists in game awards such as Nokia’s Mobile Innovation Challenge.

One AR game did not win any awards this year, but was certainly an audience favorite (the most hits): Cyber Figure Alice – the first adult only AR game.

2) Major investments in AR research

Media Power made significant investments in augmented reality research organizations around the world. If the $5M for GA Tech GVU donnation and $2.7M for NZ HIT Lab donnation don’t speak for itself, the results are already showing:

1) Record commercial deals

The AR market picked up steam in 2008 with high visibility deals such as Total Immersion’s with Six Flags (“magically superimpose clown masks on riders” as their waiting for the Dark Night ride) and Metaio (book deals with publishers ArsEdition and Knowledge Media). Metaio also scored a lucrative advertising contract to promote the MINI.

What, in your opinion, was the most significant augmented reality milestone in 2008?

Whatever you do, don’t miss “If the Augmented Reality Industry Got a Report Card”

Subscribe (top right) to get the complete 2008 wrap up series.

To BeAR or not to BeAR?

Thomas Baekdal put together a nice post about PlayStation Eye Camera Games.

These are the kind of games Diarmid Campbell demonstrated live on stage while delivering the unforgettable keynote at ISMAR 2008 last week.

Purists would rant it’s not augmented reality: If a game takes place on screen, the fact that you interact with it using hand movements (even when you see yourself in the background) doesn’t qualify it as AR. It’s still “just” a camera game.

Yeah, I know – but if the experience is captivating and survives the novelty stage – does it matter how you call it?

The best type of fun is when technology gets invisible.

How would you call these games?

Live From ISMAR ’08: Augmented Reality Demo Round Up

ISMAR ’08 is the epicenter of the world’s best augmented reality demos. Here are the audience favorite picks:

The most beautiful demo

Markerless Magic Books

Created by the only artist at ISMAR ’08…
(on the left menu bar click Interaction/Haunted Book)

Our demonstration shows two artworks that rely  on recent Computer Vision and Augmented Reality techniques  to animate  the illustrations  of poetry books.  Because  we don’t need markers, we  can achieve seamless integration of  real  and  virtual  elements  to  create  the  desired atmosphere.  The visualization is done on a computer screen to avoid cumbersome Head-Mounted Displays. The camera is hidden into a desk lamp for easing even more the spectator immersion. Our work is the result of a collaboration between an artist and Computer Vision researchers. It shows beautiful and poetic augmented reality. It is further described in our paper ‘The Haunted House’.

Camille Scherrer, Julien Pilet, Vincent Lepetit (EPFL)

The most invisible demo

Sensor-fusion Based Augmented Reality with off the Shelf Mobile Phone

OK, you see a Scandinavian guy standing in the middle of the yard with a cell phone held high in his hand. What’s the big deal ? Exactly!

We demonstrate mobile augmented reality applications running on the newly released Nokia 6210 Navigator mobile phone. The device features an embedded 3D compass, 3D accelerometer, and assisted GPS unit – the fundamental ingredients for sensor-based pose estimation, in addition to smart-phone standards: forwards-pointing camera, high-resolution displays and internet connection. In our applications sensor based pose estimation is enhanced with computer vision methods and positioning error minimization techniques. Also the user interface solutions are designed to try to convey the relative uncertainty of the pose estimate to the user in intuitive ways.

Markus Kähäri, David J. Murphy (Nokia Research Center)

The most 90’s demo

See-Through Vision for Mobile Outdoor Augmented Reality

(compare to the previous demo)

We have developed a system built on our mobile Augmented Reality platform that provides users with see- through vision, allowing visualization of occluded objects textured with real-time video information. The demo participants will be able to wear our lightweight, belt- mounted wearable computer and head mounted display. The display will render hidden locations captured from the University of South Australia. These locations consist of 3D models of buildings and courtyard areas that are textured with pre-recorded video images. The system includes a collection of visualizations and tools that assist with viewing these occluded real-world locations; e.g. digital zoom and texture highlighting.

Benjamin Avery, Bruce H. Thomas, Wayne Piekarski, Christian Sandor  (University of South Australia)

The most playful mixed-reality game demo

Mobile Phone Augmented Reality

In our demo booth we will show a compilation of recent developments created by the Handheld AR group at Graz University of Technology and Imagination Computer
Services. None of these demos has been shown before at a scientific conference making it a unique experience for every ISMAR attendee. All our demos are hands-on: During our demos we will hand out devices and let people experience our applications.

Daniel Wagner, Alessandro Mulloni, Tobias Langlotz  (TU Graz), Istvan Barakonyi (Imagination),  Dieter Schmalstieg (TU Graz)

The most crowded demo

Superimposing Dynamic Range
In a dark, corner room the size of a closet, about 150 people are gathering around an artifact from the future….

We present a simple and low-cost method of superimposing high dynamic range visualizations onarbitrary reflective media, such as photographs, radiological paper prints, electronic paper, or even reflective three-dimensional items. Our technique is based on a secondary modulation of projected light when being surface reflected. This allows boosting contrast, perceivable tonal resolution, and color saturation beyond the possibility of projectors, or the capability of spatially uniform environment light when illuminating such media. It holds application potential for a variety of domains, such as radiology, astronomy, optical microscopy, conservation and restoration of historic art, modern art and entertainment installations.

Oliver Bimber (Bauhaus-University Weimar), Daisuke Iwai (Osaka University)

The most iTouchy demo

Multimodal Mobile Augmented Reality on the iPhone

How do you spell ARToolkit in iPhonese? (Hype is a beautiful thing)

In this demonstration we show how the Apple iPhone can be used as a platform for interesting mobile phone based AR applications, especially because of its support for multimodal input. We have ported a version of the ARToolKit library to the iPhone and customized it for the unique input capabilities of this platform. The demo shows multimarker-based tracking, virtual object rendering and AR overlay, gesture-based interaction with shared virtual content, and accelerometer input. This demonstration shows some of the possibilities of AR when there is no hardware to configure, no interface to learn, and the interaction is natural and intuitive.

Philip Lamb (ARToolworks)

The most down-under demo

An Augmented Reality Weather System

You have to live down-under to conceive a machine that simulates bad weather…brilliant!

This demo presents ARWeather, a simulation application, which can simulate three types of precipitation: rain, snow, and hail. Our goal is to fully immerse the user in the simulated weather by multimodal rendering of audio and graphics, while preserving autonomous and free movement of the user. Therefore, ARWeather was developed and deployed on the Tinmith wearable computer system. Software highlights of this demo include: GPU-accelerated particle systems and video processing, spatial audio with OpenAL, and physics-based interaction of particles with the environment (e.g., hail bounces of the ground).

Marko Heinrich (U. Koblenz-Landau), Bruce H. Thomas (U. South Australia), Stefan Mueller (U.Koblenz-Landau), Christian Sandor (U. South Australia)

The most highbrow demo

AR Museum Presentation Room

I never would have learned about this ancient plate’s history – had AR not been invented. A Classic.

The artwork to which the augmented reality technology is applied, is a plate produced by the technique called metallic lustre. Around the exhibited real artwork,
information is provided by multimedia tools, offering the visitor various approaches to the artwork. Adding information with augmented reality is intuitive and offers an illustration of something that cannot be seen by the naked eye, without turning away the visitor’s eyes from the real artwork. The system is currently in use at the Louvre – DNP Museum Lab (LDML) – Tokyo/Japan.

T. Miyashita (Dai Nippon Printing), P. Meier (metaio), S. Orlic (Musée du Louvre), T. Eble, V. Scholz,  A. Gapel, O. Gerl, S. Arnaudov,  S. Lieberknecht (metaio)

The “I am waaaay ahead of you” demo

Mapping large environments using multiple maps for wearable augmented reality

video of last year's demo

A demonstration of a wearable robotic system that uses an extended version of the parallel tracking and mapping system by Klein and Murray from ISMAR 2007. This extended version allows multiple independent cameras to be used to build a map in unison, and to also create multiple independent maps around an environment. The user can explore an environment in a natural way, acquiring local maps in real-time. When revisiting those areas the system will select the correct local map and continue tracking and structural acquisition, while the user views relevant AR constructs registered to that map.

Robert Castle, Georg Klein & David W. Murray (University of Oxford)

Additional great demos weren’t included due to the lack of space on this post and lack of sleep of the author…

Live from ISMAR ’08: Awards, Winners, and Wrap up of the World’s Best Augmented Reality Event

They say, every good thing has an end…and this event is no exception; ISMAR ’08, the world’s most important augmented reality event, is coming to a close with in a high note and with fireworks (augmented, of course).

That’s the part where the event chairs recognize the organizers which have made it possible, and thank the keynote speakers, paper submitters, demo exhibitors, poster presenters, competition contenders, and all participants for making it such a memorable event.

Cut to…flashback. It’s last night at King’s College; Ron Azuma is the MC for the best paper award ceremony…

King's College "Cafeteria"

And the honorable mention goes to: Georg Klein and David Murray “Compositing For Small Cameras”….winners of last year’s best paper…this is excellent work…many other practitioners can use these results”

Best student paper (tied with best paper): Sheng Liu, Dewen Cheng, Hong Hua “An Optical See-Through Head Mounted Display with Addressable Focal Planes”…it’s a breakthrough…this strikes me as a memorable and important step forward for HMD technology

Best paper: Daniel Wagner, Gerhard Reitmayr, Alessandro Mulloni, Tom Drummond, Dieter Schmalstieg “Pose Tracking from Natural Features on Mobile Phones”…“WOW! SIFT and the Ferns running in (almost) real-time on mobile phones…the performance is truly impressive and opens the door to amazing future applications

Congrats. You guys are the 800 pound Gorillas in augmented reality.

Cut to…flash forward. It’s the present back in the Cambridge Engineering Department. The winners of the Tracking Competition are about to be announced by the competition team:

Tracking Competition setup

We defined the setup in a large room in the department, with reference points and coordinates and installed 8 different stations with many different objects in them. We made it really hard on the competitors. We gave them time to prepare; they got coordinates of 16 items which they had to pick using their AR tracking technology.

We started with 5 contenders: Metaio (Tobias Eble), Fraunhofer (Harald Whuest), University of Bristol (Sudeep Sundaram), Millennium 3 Engineering (Mark Fiala), and University of Oxford (Georg Klein). Mark Fiala unfortunately had to drop due to lack of sufficient preparation time. Bristol thought the room was missing some features…

And here are the results: in the second place came Metaio with 15 items picked in a little more than 10 minutes…and in first place [the audience favorite] Georg Klein who picked all 16 items in a record time 8:48!


Georg (Le magnifique) will return to Oxford with an extra 1000 pounds in his pocket. And he’s humble and gracious:

Thanks to Robert Castle for providing the method (parallel tracking and mapping) which I adapted this morning – it was greatly suitable for the task.

And for those who wonder what kind of bug drove me to write more than 10,000 words in 17 posts within 4 days – I have one word for you: passion…plus the amazing support I got from ISMAR attendees and chairs, and mostly – you guys: AR avid fans out there, that weren’t as fortunate and couldn’t attend the event this year. THANK YOU!

They also say it’s never over ’till the fat lady sings…and in this case Christopher Stapleton plays the role: he’s the last to come up on stage and his deep voice vibrates across the walls of the auditorium as he shouts into the mic:

ISMAR 2009 Experience starts right now!

If you want to be part of it, help or support it – just send a note to christopher@stapleton.net

Fade out. Credits. Slideshow. We’re outta here.