Giant Augmented Hand Terrorizes City

I had a pleasant surprise this morning when Chris O’Shea sent me a mail with his latest work Hand from Above. This public art installation features a giant hand that through the magic of OpenCV and some smart programming on O’Shea’s part, tickles, picks and pounds unsuspecting pedestrians:

Yes, I know, it’s not augmented reality according to Azuma’s definition, but it’s certainly original and a lot of fun. It could have been even more fun, if I could control the hand myself, but my god delusions will wait for now. More details on O’Shea’s site, where you should really take a look at “Out of Bounds”, another art installation that has a strong AR motif.

In Germany they have Augmented Elections

Just a short video for this lazy Saturday afternoon. The German federal election are held tomorrow, and the voting form may be confusing for some. Luckily, augmented reality is here to help you do the right choice:

Sounds a bit illegal, though I can see parties using such application for a last minute self-advertisement. Unfortunately, no further details are provided.

Augmented Reality in Your Hands

Researchers from the University of California Santa Barbara have a lofty goal on their minds – “Anywhere Augmentation”, which means augmenting arbitrary environments with little prior preparation. Or as they put it:

The main goal of this work is to lower the barrier of broad acceptance for augmented reality by expanding beyond research prototypes that only work in prepared, controlled environments.

Now, if have been following the world of augmented reality for the last year, you are probably familiar with the following situation. There’s some site offering an AR experience, but in order to access it, you have to print at least one black and white symbol. Unfortunately, the marker you have just printed last week, for another site, just doesn’t cut it. Each site requires its own marker, that becomes obsolete after two minutes. It’s a defining example of prior preparation in order to experience AR, and the researcher at UCSB as a plan to eliminate it.
Enters HandyAR. Instead of using a marker, Taehee Lee and Tobias Höllerer want to track your outstretched hand.

You can even have some minimal interaction with virtual objects, dragging and dropping them, by closing and opening your hand, as the following video shows:

Ain’t it cool? You can find much more information over here, where you can also download a binary (Windows) and source code (Visual Studio 2005) to play with.
(via @totalimmersion)

Augmented Reality Flashlight

The posts I like the most are about student projects. Luckily here’s another one.
A couple of students from the German research institute, the Fraunhofer Society created what they name “The Augmented Reality Flashlight”. Basically, it’s a micro-projector held as a flashlight to shed light (i.e. annotate) objects in your vicinity. Yep, projected AR is not dead after all.

So, what’s novel about this technique? After all, we all saw MIT’s Sixth Sense half a year ago. One of the students, Robert Brauer explains:

[the novelty is in] The metaphorical approach. The whole “flashlight” thing changes the style of working from the ergonomic perspective – which was our initial motivation.
In technical space I’d say that we concentrate going “pure pinky”. Based on the interaction technique there is no need for coloured finger caps. We try to work naturally on and furthermore with the object. Although we really like the MIT project, the finger caps are to us what the stylus was to mobile phones. Unnecessary and annoying.

You can read more details over Brauer’s blog. If you are a student that happen to work on an AR project, feel free to send me a mail, I’m just a few clicks away :)

AR Lite with SREngine Lite

This writer’s favorite AR developer, Sein Kanemura, has just posted an English description of his latest mobile application SREngine Lite. Unlike the full blown SREngine, this one does not try to augment a video feed, but rather tackles the simpler task of mobile image recognition. It similar to Nokia’s Point and Find and some other mobile applications, but I find its interface very attractive:

The Lite version makes do without a server (up to 20 images can be stored on the device), doesn’t require GPS or compass readings, so it works on the iPhone 3G as well as on the iPhone 3GS, and it’s purely based on image recognition.

SREngine Lite recently won the Japanese “Next-Generation Communications & Marketing” award under the Future category. And, following the trend, Kanemura promises to “release SREngine Lite SDK for iPhone which allows developers to design own ar app.”.

More details here. Tom covered SREngine Lite a couple of week ago, but I’ve waited for the English translation, mistrusting Google Translate.

AR for the Environmentally Aware Shopper

This next augmented reality concept , named FoodTracer, comes to us from Italian Giuseppe Costanza, as his final year project for MA Communication Design at Central Saint Martins. And it’s quite an impressive final project!
Aimed to give consumers more information about the food products they are buying (such as their carbon footprint and where they were produced), while minimizing packaging, FoodTracer is a bright idea on how AR can make the world a tad better. Users would be able to access the information that concerns them, compare and bookmark several products, and later examine their shopping history at home. Here’s one of Costanza’s imagined use cases:

When Susan goes shopping in her usual supermarket she knows where organic products are placed so she can quickly pick the right products, but today she went shopping in a new supermarket where products are displayed in a different way, she doesn’t have the time to check on the packaging which product is organic so she uses FoodTracer to easily spot organic apples.

Costanza even built a demo application for the Symbian mobile operating system, using embeded markers and d-touch nice looking markers that hide in the products’ logos, as can be seen in the following video:

Many more details over here.

Augmented Pool is very Cool

Yep, it’s the silliest post title I’ve ever come up with. Nevertheless, this next video is really cool. It features both a robotic pool player and an augmented reality guidance system for human pool players (starting at 2:00).

It was developed by a team of researchers from Canada’s Queen’s university. Sadly, I couldn’t find much information about the augmented reality implementation. However, here’s an article about the robotic system, and I guess that once they implemented the robot, advancing to AR only required identifying the cue stick.

Magic Mirrors

When it comes to using augmented reality for marketing purposes, nothing beats those magic mirror applications. After all, trying on a product, even virtually, goes a long way towards selling it (and surely it’s better than those novelty AR gimmicks).

Previously I’ve covered Fraunhofer’s magic mirror that lets you try on new shirts, and just last week we reported about virtually trying on diamond rings. Today I’m going to cover to exciting companies working in this field, Fittingox and Seac02.

One of the first and still most famous commercial applications of this kind was Ray-Ban’s virtual mirror that enabled web surfers to check out how would they look with different sunglasses. The company behind the technology, FittingBox, has recently licensed the technology to British online glasses retailer Glasses Direct. Taming face detection algorithms, FittingBox can place a pair of glasses on you with an admirable accuracy. And it doesn’t end with Ray-Ban and Glasses Direct. Vogue Eyewear also uses that technology and FittingBox is the owner of YouAreTheModel.com, where you can try on many other brands. Here’s a short video showcasing the technology:

While FittingBox is somewhat a niche company specializing in virtual eyeglasses, Seac02 develops many AR applications (and I really need to cover some of them, sometime). Their Eligo engine simplifies the creation of magic mirrors application at point of sales. Seen here is HairArt, an application developed by Seac02 Asian distributor Hanoul Neotech, that lets the user try on wigs. Yes, we have seen such applications before, but it’s always good to see another one:

Another application of this technology is this next magic mirror that lets you try on and even choose some tailor made shoes. This one still needs a marker to work out, but according to Seac02 they will be releasing a version in July that waives this requirement and detects your feet automatically.

(Glasses Direct via Not Just Reality)

AR, no Programming Knowledge Needed

Do you want to play with AR, but too afraid you don’t have the required programming knowledge needed? Now you have two applications to play with from the comfort of your own home.

First is Metaio Unifeye Design. Available freely in an (almost fully featured) demo version, this tool is far from being a toy. You can create elaborate scenarios of marker based and marker-less image based augmented reality without writing a single line of code. You can test your creations with your web-camera or using a prerecorded video clip of a marker. There’s even a tool for creating new markers.

However, such flexibility does come with a price. I had a hard time working with the user interface beyond the basic functions, and I’m quite sure I only scratched the surface of what’s possible with this tool. That’s why I had this application installed for about a month now, but I was hesitant about writing anything about it.
Metaio claims that video tutorials are coming shortly, and I think they are very much needed (and I’m a programmer in my spare time :).
In more somber news, you can’t use your own 3d models, or export your scenarios as a stand alone application. You probably have to pay for those features.

Now, if Metaio Unifeye Design was a bit too complex for you, the next application is truly augmented reality for beginners. It’s called Atomic, and it wraps ARToolKit to give you the basic functionality of augmenting markers with VRML 3d objects when you examine them using your webcam. The application source is available to download as well, so eager programmers may add more features to it in the future. Another advantage of this tool is that it allows you to import and use your own models. However, don’t expect to amaze any AR veteran using it.

Once again:
Unifeye Design
Atomic (Atomic via Rising Wisely)
Happy Augmenting!

New SREngine Video

Sein has just posted a new video on his blog (in Japanese, though an English version is apparently in the workings). I think it’s really amazing what one man can do on his own:

I’ve covered SREngine before, and so did Ori, and from video to video you could really see how this application takes shape.

Though using image recognition makes it a bit slow (for the meanwhile) in comparison to systems based purely on GPS and compass positioning , it allows it to identify smaller things, at shorter distance and within close quarters. I really can’t wait to see it available on the appstore.