Weekly Linkfest

It’s Sunday, and here are some links from around the augmented sphere:

Ever played Duplo (the big blocks version of Lego) as a toddler? Worried that your kids will only want to play with things that have touch screens on them? Worry not, legoplatformer.com will turn your old bricks into a mobile augmented reality platform capable of running computer games. On a serious note, that’s one example of the power of Qualcomm’s AR SDK:

ARTags – The Sign of Apps to Come

I hate it when I’m scheduling a post just to find out that someone else (this time Augmented Planet) publish a post about it just a day before my goes up. Luckily ARTags is important enough to deserve two posts within 24 hours.

Coming to us from France, ARTags is an AR drawing application, that apparently makes it very easy to draw nice looking pictures on your mobile phone and add them to your current location. Though it’s quite new, already more than 1500 pictures were drawn using this app all across the world.

But that doesn’t make it special. What makes ARTags special is the fact that it’s a cross platform app. That is, the pictures are visible using Wikitude, Layar and Junaio (though I had a bit of a problem finding the right channel on Wikitude). Instead of creating a new browser application, or integrating within only one of the above three, the folks behind ARTags decided to have a presence in all of them. That’s absolutely the right decision, at least at this stage. I certainly hope that other app developers will follow.

Now, if only someone invented an app to make its user better artists.

More information here.

Three Things We Can Learn From Disney

Last year at ISMAR09, the keynote speech from Mark Mine of the Disney Imagineering group, really intrigued me.   I had been a hardcore Disney hater before that, but Mark’s behinds-the-scenes look at the technology of Disney, specifically how they used augmented reality, softened my stance.

Cue forward almost one year exactly, in a strange twist of fate and of overenthusiastic grandparents, I find myself at Disney for a week.  Since I was going to be at Disney, I decided to check out all the AR attractions that Mark Mine had talked about in his presentation.  I got to see all the applications I wanted to see except one (Magic Sand) and this is what I learned from the experience:

1) True location based gaming can be a blast

The Kim Possible Adventure game in Epcot was my kids favorite event from the Disney properties.  Each player receives a cellphone and then they follow the clues around until they solve the mystery.  The game uses RFID tags to know when the player is in the right location.  This game is as much an alternate reality game as AR, but either could do the job marvelously.  There were about eight total missions in the various countries of Epcot and the kids did all of them.  I did a few with them and then let them do the rest on their own.

Now that markerless AR is becoming more common with products like Junaio Glue and Google Goggles, I’d like to see someone make a few ARGames based on the Kim Possible model.  It was truly a fun experience that the whole family enjoyed.

2) AR needs to be a product not a feature

In the Disney Downtown area, there’s a wonderful LEGO store with amazing statues made of LEGO bricks.  In the back of the store, there’s a LEGO AR Kiosk.  Since Metaio’s LEGO kiosk was one of the first applications of AR a few years ago, I won’t go into the details of what it is.  But what I will talk about is the hour I stood in the back of the store and watched people interact with it.

Quite a number of parents and kids picked up boxes and held them in front of the camera.  They seemed amused for a second and then quickly put them down and moved on.  I asked a few people what they thought of it and they mostly shrugged without saying much.

The problem I see is that most usages of AR currently are add-on features that are cool in themselves, but don’t actually add to the experience of the product.  For AR to be truly memorable it needs to be both conspicuous and integral to the product.

3) Projection based AR is the future of amusement parks

Projection based AR at Disney was everywhere.  From Buzz Lightyear’s talking statue;  to projected skins across landscapes or objects; or full fledged projected realities that came alive when the haptic chair you sat in moved with the reality.  While this one isn’t going to do much for the average AR programmer, as their medium is the cell phone and not an amusement ride, the amusement parks are going to rely on AR more and more for their advanced special effects.  I think my favorite example was the Forbidden Journey ride at the Harry Potter area of Universal.  I honestly cannot tell you exactly what all was AR, or animatronics, or just smoke and mirrors, but it was truly awesome.  It actually felt like you were there in a place that only exists in our collective minds and sprung from JK Rowling.  That makes the far-future of AR both scary and exciting, and I’m glad to be along for the ride.

Highlights from Metaio’s insideAR

So Metaio was nice enough to upload all of insideAR talks online (wish that the organizers of ISMAR10 will follow suit). However, most of us don’t have a day to spend watching all the talks, so here are some of my favorites (note that I’m a tech head, so your mileage may vary) :

Sadly, no videos of Metaio folks drinking excessive amounts of beer in the Oktoberfest, but I keep my hopes high for next year.

Weekly Linkfest

Flying drones, electronic musician and virtual girlfriends, all in this week’s linkfest:

For this week’s video we’ve got yet another futuristic vision, this time by German designer Björn Matthes. In his diploma project, Araproject, Matthes adds an energetic urban twist to augmented reality:

Have a beautiful week, happy Eid-ul-Fitr and Rosh Hashanah.

Junaio 2010 Dev Contest Winner – archINFORM

I recently participated as a judge in the Junaio 2010 Dev Contest.  After a good debate, the panel of judges picked the winner — archINFORM.  The channel gives the user information about architectural structures in an AR view port.  Augmented reality fits the use of this channel because it’s an immediate need one might have while walking around, and sightseeing often involves picture taking so why not use your smartphone to learn more about those ancient buildings.

If you’re wanting to make in impact in Junaio, or with any AR app, try to consider why you’re using augmented reality in the first place.  archINFORM won because it was a natural extension of our everyday activities.  It added to the architectural database by making it visual.  Taking other popular applications and just linking them through Junaio, or other services, doesn’t lend itself to a useful product.

And I’m hoping Metaio decides to do another contest now that Glue is live.  I think the potential and creative applications could be quite interesting and I hope they give me a chance to judge again because I enjoyed the discussion with the other judges.

Weekly Linkfest

Another bounty of delicious links awaits those who read the weekly linkfest:

This week’s video is of Junaio Glue. Nothing special, just a nice demonstration of marker less tracking on a non flat surface. Or in other words, the coolest coffee mug I’ve seen yet:

Have a lovely week!

Weekly Linkfest – Attack of the Vision Based Apps!

This week will go down in history as the week vision-based AR mobile applications made their first move on the iPhone platform, and you’ll find plenty of those in the linkfest. Is this the (very welcomed) end for webcam based AR?

As promised, here’s Ben&Jerry’s Moo Vision. Looking cool, but what’s that thing about chickens being in my ice cream? I want my ice cream to be poultry free, if you don’t mind!

Enjoy your week!

5 Things To Do With Junaio Glue and LLA Markers

With the live video access on the iPhone OS 4.0, Metaio is looking to make a splash with its Glue technology in the Junaio AR browser. They would like to show how the iPhone can do more than GPS AR browsing with both image processing and their indoor LLA marker tracking.

LLA Markers

The LLA markers are designed for indoor spaces when GPS becomes unusable. By attaching the latitude, longitude and altitude to a unique pattern, the iPhone can reposition itself without having access to satellites. Since the compass and gyroscope still work, you can point your phone away from the LLA marker and get navigation to the next POI.

This case shows how AR can be superior to map based location using the LLA marker technology. In underground malls when GPS becomes useless, AR can help bridge the gap. I’ve spent considerable time in Japan and often have been lost once I strolled far from my starting location. I would have to go up to the surface to get my barrings occasionally. If they installed LLA markers, it would allow the iPhone to become a useful navigator.

Junaio Glue

In addition to indoor GPS locations, Metaio has improved AR by adding live optical image processing.  By uploading a tracking image to the Junaio servers, anyone can create an optical image that 3D content and information can be attached.  To check out the technology, download Junaio and view this Glue comic character to see how it works.

This image processing along with a standard browser opens up a wealth of possibilities for Junaio.  Now content providers can be more creative with their applications, utilizing visual clues along with GPS and directional ones.

Here are a few ideas that might spur your interest:

1) Using available 3D content on the web, turn your run-of-the-mill picture book into a 3D pop-up with your iPhone.  Just upload each page as a marker and attach the image to it.

2) Create an augmented menu based on the logo of your restaurant.  Or just have it link to your webpage.  Make the world your Internet.

3) Location based treasure hunts using actual pictures of locations to find the next clue.

4) Turn your face into a business card.

5) Turn your logo into a charity event.  Every time someone checks your logo using Junaio and it pulls the image or link from your server, give them a chance to donate, or make a small donation on their behalf.

If you have other ideas, feel free to comment!

How Augmented Reality is Changing the World Cup

Coming back from my vacation, I had to catch up with a lot of AR related news. One topic though was so prevalent that I had to write about it in my coming back post. Obviously, I’m talking about the world cup in soccer. No other sports event gained such an attention from the AR community, and here are the results (don’t worry the last few ones are quite good):

Zakumi in FLARToolkit
The good: It seems to be created by a single programmer. Cheers for the initiative.
The god-awful bad: The music. I rather hear vuvuzelas than this one hit wonder.

Kappa’s “We Are One”
The good: The music is better than the previous video.
The bad: It’s in Chinese, so it’s hard for me to tell, but I think you need to download an application to play with it. Hello? This is 2010s, not prehistoric 2009!
Where: http://2010.kappa.com.cn/

Sony Ericsson World Cup Game
The good: You get to be a world famous soccer player while hitting soccer balls with your head in this game created by Total Immersion’s partner CherryPicks.
The bad: World famous soccer players are not necessarily handsome.
Where: http://www.sonyericsson.com.hk/fifa-game/

The world cup in a shopping mall
The good: Nice game, showing there are still some innovative things to do with a marker on a piece of paper. Made by another partner of TI – InterAct 3d.
The bad: Couldn’t they have the same application accessible through a webcam?

Junaio’s virtual soccer field overlay
The good: A brave attempt by Metaio to show game statistics for fans in the stadium in an unconventional way.
The bad: You have to be in South Africa to see it, and no videos are available. I’m a bit skeptic.
More info: http://augmentedblog.wordpress.com/2010/06/24/kick-it-like-augmented-reality/ where you can read about another application assisting you to find a good joint to see the next soccer match.

Zugara’s AR game in a banner
The good: Really cool creative, you need to “head in” corner kicks in this AD for AT&T.
The bad: AT&T. And people looking at you from behind while you’re jerking your head around.
Where: http://www.espn.com

KickBall AR
The good: Much better than AR Boomerang, this is the only mobile application on this list.
The bad: Only available for Samsung’s Bada operating system and the fact that Tom already wrote about it.

If I’ve missed anything (surely there’s a Layar layer for the games, no?), please feel free to add a comment.
So how AR is changing the world cup? Well it’s not, but for my first post in nearly three weeks, I had to try a title inspired by the linkbait generator. Anyhow, the usual “Weekly Linkfest” will return next week and as usual be sure to follow me on Twitter.