Live from GDC: Augmented Reality at the Game Developers Conference – by the Numbers

Reporting live from The Game Developer Conference in San Francisco, with my Augmented Reality filter on – here are the stats:

0 (Zero)

Number of mentions of Augmented Reality during Sid Meier’s keynote – the game design legend behind “Civilization”
Truth be told –  also missing from the keynote were mobile games, social games, casual games, and virtual goods…

0.1

Number of mentions of Augmented Reality in 10 Microtalks by 10 of the most revered visionaries in the game industry
Jesse Schell touched on the impact of games on reality (AKA Gamepocalypse) as an epilogue to his mind blowing Dice Talk

1

Number of mentions by investors on a panel about how to get funded
Brought up as example of games that will help developers differentiate themselves. The advice: build real life RPGs!

2

Mentions of Augmented Reality  during Facebook’s Social Games Summit Keynote
Gareth Davis touted augmented reality twice as the next generation of mobile social games.

3

Number of press articles about augmented reality during the GDC week

3.5

Number of GDC sessions focused on Augmented Reality
(on a personal rant – my submission for a talk titled “Put a Spell: Post Mortem of the first augmented reality learning game for the iPhone” was shamefully rejected!)

5

Number of Augmented Reality game demos on the exhibition floor
  • Sony EyePet and Move
  • Vuzix presented a game by Ohan Oda – Columbia University (video below shows a similar game)
  • AR Drone CES sensation by Parrot and Int13;
  • Nestle Cereal box as controller by 3DVia-Dassault Systemes;
(Metaio skipped the show this year and is betting on SxSW with ScavengAR)

6

Number of AR capable devices showcased at the event
iPhone, Android, DSi, Sony EyeToy. Plus Windows Phone 7, and Xbox Natal – promised to be released before the end of 2010 (NVidia mobile AR demo was MIA – missing In Action)

27

The least number of back-room meetings focusing on augmented reality which took place at GDC
(or in other words – meetings I was part of…)

100

Percentage of game developers familiar with the concept of augmented reality
(based on my anecdotal survey)

∞ (infinity)

Amount of inspiration at the event for designing augmented reality games

***

So how does GDC 2010 compare with last year’s Tiny Spark of Augmented Reality?
In a nut shell: Augmented Reality made progress in mind share – but not yet in real impact on the game industry.
Wanted: Game Designers to build Augmented Reality Games!

Who Should Attend The Augmented Reality Event in Santa Clara, CA June 2nd & 3rd, 2010

Over the last 2 years we have seen growing interest in Augmented Reality in various events – panels, dev camps, meetups – and many more. Due to growing demand for knowledge and expertise in augmented reality (AR), a group of AR industry insiders, backed by the AR Consortium have put together the first commercial event dedicated to advance the business of augmented reality.

How is are2010 different from ISMAR…

…previously touted here as the “World’s best Augmented Reality event”?

Well, ISMAR is still the best AR event for the scientific community. If you want to learn about (or present) the latest advancements in AR research – you should be in Seoul this October for ISMAR 2010. However, for the rest of us, who wish to take advantage of AR in practice, in the commercial world, and build a business around it – there was a gaping hole.

That is, until now.

Meet the Augmented Reality Event.

Who’s this event for?

For established and start up AR companies –

For established and start up AR companies (such as Total Immersion, Metaio, Acrossair, Ogmento, Circ.us, Mobilizy, Layar, Zugara, Neogence, whurleyvision, Chaotic Moon Studios, and many more) – are2010 is a stage to showcase their products and services; a venue to form partnerships, learn about latest innovations, and most importantly speak with clients. Bruno Uzzan, CEO of Total Immersion will wow the audience with a cutting edge augmented reality show; Peter Meier, CTO of Metaio, will speak about his companies latest products. Early stage startups and individual developers will receive guidance from Cole Van Nice (Chart Venture Partners) for how to build a successful company in the AR space, including raising funding (from VCs that actually invest in AR), licensing technology and IP, legal aspects, forging partnerships, etc. Christine Perey will speak about the scope of the mobile AR industry today and it’s growth trajectory.

For Developers –

For developers, are2010 is a window into the latest AR algorithms, engines and programming tools. Learn from case studies and post mortems delivered by experienced developers from the leading companies in the space. Blair MacIntyre, director of the GVU Center’s Augmented Environments Lab at Georgia Tech, will speak about his experience with tools and technologies while developing augmented reality games. Daniel Wagner, one of the leading mobile AR researchers in the world, will bring developers into the wonderful world of mobile AR. Patrick O’Shaughnessey, which has lead the development of more webcam-based AR campaigns than anyone else I know – will share his knowledge of what works and what doesn’t. Mike Liebhold, Distinguished Fellow at the Institute for the Future , will speak about Technology foundations of an Open ARweb. Gene Becker, co-founder of AR DevCamp, will dive into augmented reality and ubiquitous computing, and Sean White, a pioneer in Green Tech AR will suggest concrete examples of how AR can help save the planet

For Mobile, Hardware, and Platform Companies

For Mobile, Hardware, and Platform companies (such as Vuzix, Nokia, Qualcomm, Intel, QderoPateo, Microsoft, Google, Apple etc.) are2010 consists of a captive audience to launch and showcase their latest devices, processors, AR glasses, sensors, etc. The best collective minds of the AR commercial world will be onsite to articulate the market demand characteristics and help influence the design of future hardware.

For Clients and Agencies –

For clients and agencies in entertainment, media, publishing, education, healthcare, government, tourism, and many more – are2010 offers everything you need to know about AR: how to leverage augmented reality to advance your brand, attract and keep your customers, and how to build successful campaigns and products that will delight users, including postmortems of landmark augmented reality projects.

Jarrell Pair, CTO and a founder of LP33.tv, will speak about “Augmented Reality in Music Entertainment: Then and Now”, Brian Selzer, co-founder and President of Ogmento, will deliver a crash course for clients and agencies about how to leverage AR in marketing campaigns. Marshal Kirkpatrick, lead blogger for ReadWriteWeb, will share the results of his AR survey collecting feedback from dozens of AR developers and their experience in delivering AR campaigns and apps. Kent Demain, designer of the visual effects in Minority Report, will open our minds with the talk: “Taking Hollywood visual effects spectacle out of the theatre and into your world”. And of course…

For any AR Enthusiast –

Are you an AR Enthusiast? If so, you’re going to feel like a kid in a candy store at ARE, with a soon-to-be unforgettable keynote by Bruce Sterling, demo gallery, exhibitors from leading companies, artists installations from AR artists such as Eric Gradman and Helen Papagiannis, and many more surprises.

If you are into Augmented Reality – are2010 is the one event you should attend this year.

Want to join the event? Early registration is now open!

Vuzix Wrap 920AR Video Eyewear at CES 2010

The Vuzix Wrap 920AR aren’t the sexiest of specs, but they do perform the function of AR glasses. I got a chance to see this setup at ISMAR09 which they’re now showing at CES 2010.

The specs for the glasses look like:

The stereo camera pair delivers a single 1504 x 480 side-by-side image that can be viewed in 3D stereoscopic video, while the video eyewear provides an unprecedented 67-inch display as seen from 10 feet. The Wrap 920AR also includes a 6 Degree-of-Freedom Tracker, which allows for absolute accuracy of roll pitch and yaw and also X, Y and Z positioning in 3D space

Vuzix Wrap 920AR Specifications:

• 1/3-inch wide VGA Digital Image Sensor
• Resolution: 752H x 480W
• Includes 6 Degree-of-Freedom Tracker
• Frame rate: 60 fps
• Dynamic range: >55dB linear; >80-100dB in HiDy mode
• Shutter efficiency: >99%
• ADC Resolution: 10-bit column parallel
• High-speed USB 2.0
• PC and Mac compatible
• System requirements: Windows XP SP2, Windows Vista, Windows7, Mac OS X 10.4.9 or higher
• MSRP: $799.99

[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/v/lpcyMn6UVKY&amp]

They probably won’t be worn in public anytime soon, but some creative programmers could create interesting house-only interactive avatars or AR spaces. While some might scoff at this idea, see this video from Georgia Tech last year to see how even semi-cheesy graphics can make augmented reality immersive. Having played the old VR game Dactyl Nightmare in the 1990s, the head-tracking really creates the illusion of reality.

[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h8c6U7dpI7g]

We haven’t seen any developers put together a product that takes advantage of these $800 glasses, but hopes are that exposure at CES 2010 will bring more interest. The only thing I’ve seen using the setup is the Whisper Deck from Craig Kapp.

Maybe later this year we might see some products that would entice the hard core AR enthusiast to fork out the cash for these un-sexy specs.

GDC 2009: First Augmented Reality Demo at a Game Developer Conference

As soon as the exhibition floor opened today at the Game Developer Conference (GDC) in San Francisco, I rushed to visit the Vuzix-Metaio booth to witness the first consumer-oriented augmented reality booth ever to exhibit at GDC.

I was not disappointed. Just watch this clip.

Stefan Misslinger (Metaio) did a fantastic job  acting it out, don’t you think?

Vuzix also had on the display the upcoming-anticipated-long-awaited-soon-to-be-released 920AV AR glasses. It wasn’t in working condition, but Vuzix promised it will be released this fall.

When the event kicked off, I offered to serve as your eyes and ears; Peter Milford took the offer and expressed his curiosity about the latest from Vuzix. This one is for you Peter: yours truly posing with the goods.

vuzix920v

Now the key question is:

how would you rank the look of these specs on a dork-to-cool scale?

Augmented Reality Predictions for 2009

Happy New 2009!

What’s in store for us in 2009?

As usual, CES 2009 will  kickoff  the AR year with a glitz. Expect to see new AR devices unveiled: new Intel MIDs, mobile devices powered for the first time by the promising chips: Texas Instruments OMAP3 and NVidia’s Tegra .

And we are most likely to meet the first a cool looking AR goggles – from Vuzix.

What else to expect in 2009?

We will see consumer AR apps selling for the first time, AR games played by cellphone owners, and the AR Market  doubling in size.

And not to forget – ISMAR 2009 – the world’s most important Augmented Reality event, will mark the first year where the show expands beyond the engineering department. In October 2009 ISMAR will make a foray into art, , experience, entertainment, and business – all key building blocks of the future AR industry. Orlando will host this year the most ambitious ISMAR yet to be planned. To join the effort contact Chris Stapleton.

2009 is posed to be the year where AR breaks from the lab and gets in the hands of consumers which will change the way we experience the world –  forever.

What do you expect from 2009?

10 best augmented reality DEVICES that will reinvent mobile video games

In my last post, I proposed a countdown of the top 10 augmented reality demos that are poised to revolutionize video games. That collection focused on concepts that inspire a totally new kind of gameplay. Novice readers testified it was a great introduction to augmented reality, while AR savvy insiders found some newly discovered ideas quite inspiring. Thank you all for the great feedback.

Now, let’s talk hardware: how in the world are we going to play these games?

Courtesy of “Window to The Future” By Steve Kosareff

AR game devices run the gamut from 20 lbs-backpack-and-head-mounted-display-systems to tiny handheld cell phones.

Once again, Marshall McLuhan’s legacy (“the medium is the message”) guides the discussion: The evolution of AR hardware devices changes the game mechanics and opens the door for a revolution in game experience.
Scholars have studied it at length (sidebar); I propose a simplified view spanning 3 generations:

The Past: Generation “Kit Bag”

Tinmith epitomizes generation “kit bag”

* took place over the last 10+ years
* custom built backpack with laptop, accessories
* head mounted display
* used exclusively in research
* groundbreaking experience yet –
* heavy, complex, and expensive

The Present: Generation “Hand Bag”

Generation “hand bag” took off with The Invisible Train
* started in 2003 with a horizon of 2010
* mass production: banking on the ubiquity of mobile devices
* aspiring for larger screens with more powerful devices
* easy to carry, ergonomic, affordable, yet –
* occupies hands, limits immersion

The Future: Generation “No Bag”

Leonard Low’s concept eyewear for augmented reality

* next 3-15 years
* eyewear: glasses and later contact lens
* handsfree; immersive
* in short: nirvana…(also means in Hindu – the end of suffering)

So, what’s the perfect device for mobile augmented reality games?

Experts argue that it depends on the type of game.
I buy that. Here’s the revised challenge: if game developers want to build a game like Roku’s Reward – what handheld device should they zero in on?

Looking at present and future generations, here is my countdown of the top 10 AR mobile devices with which developers will reinvent video games:

10. PDAs (Personal Digital Assistant)

MIT’s Environmental Detectives

PDAs knocked out the “kit bag” generation and signaled the dawn of the “hand bag” generation. They delivered mobility and extensibility (it’s easy to add a camera, GPS or other accessories) and it offered reasonable processing power.
However, with the convergence of devices such as cell phones, cameras, and the miniaturization of computers – PDAs are becoming obsolete.
Notable PDAs for AR include: iPAQ, Dell Axim, Fujitsu-Siemens, and Asus

9. UMPC (Ultra Mobile PC)

Outdoor tracking with a UMPC at the University of Cambridge

UMPCs are the most powerful handheld devices out there. Its Windows operating system makes it a familiar and practical platform for development.
Sony Vaio UX is used often by researchers; Raon Digital Everun is another candidate.
UMPCs would have been at a higher position on this list – had it not introduced 2 barriers for adoption as an AR game device: price (upwards of $1500) and size (needs a sizable bag). After all, the UMPC is designed for business – not games.

8. Smart Phones

C-Lab’s KickReal runs on a Siemens phone

If you’re after the masses, smart phones are your best bet thanks to their ubiquity (out of 1.14 billion cell phones sold in 2007 – 10% were smart phones according to IDC) . In two or three years, it will be nearly impossible to buy a conventional cell phone (as agreed at the CTIA wireless show 2008.)
So, almost everyone has them, cameras are getting better, they’re adding accelerometers, and positioning capabilities and some games have proven to work on this type of devices.
Popular mobile phones (sorted by OS popularity according to canalys) include Symbian, Microsoft, RIM, iPhone, Palm (Acquired by Access), and Linux.
Google’s Android phone has ambitions to carve its niche, but has still a long way to go (too slow, not stable). It may emerge as a viable option in 2009.
One AR company suggests the HTC P6500 as “a good approach [for augmented reality games] with faster and easier development tools.”
But because of its small screen, low end processors, and major market fragmentation – smart phones cant leap beyond the 8th spot.

7. iPhone

The iPhone could surpass other game devices (Roughly Drafted Magazine )

Though considered a smart phone – owing to its unmatched user experience – the iPhone deserves its own category.
Its form factor, touch screen, accelerometer, more modern technology, and now with an open SDK – it’s irresistible.
Although Apple is not known as a great gaming company there are currently 373 games listed under iPhone webapps.
Apple’s total control of the whole product compared with Gphone’s patchwork of multiple companies will result in a better experience.

6. Handheld Game Devices (PSP, Gizmondo, Nintendo DS)

Gizmondo used for the Caleb project at Graz University

Handheld game devices are leading the growth in the game hardware market. Some people believe they will cut into the console market. Devices such as Sony’s PSP, Nintendo DS (and Gizmondo assuming it will indeed reemerge) have a great form factor – and the fact that they are designed specifically for games, gives them an edge over general purpose devices.
But here’s the caveat: PSP and the DS need to be complemented with accessories such as camera, as well as accelerometers, positioning and ubiquitous connectivity capabilities – to be able to play in this game.

5. Nokia Phones (N Series)

MARA project at Nokia

Haven’t we already covered smart phones at #8?. Well, Nokia isn’t just another smart phone company. Through extensive research, it pushes the envelop of augmented reality experiments on phones more than any other manufacturer.
Notable devices include N-81, N95, N-810.
The feature packed multimedia heavy N95 stands out as the most popular among researchers despite some limiting factors:
* runs on symbian – not great for heavy programming
* small 2.6” screen with 240 x 320 pixels only
* Expensive (above $500) and not really for mass market

4. MID (Mobile Internet Devices)

Intel announced these MIDs to be released in 2008

Intel is putting its muscle behind the MID. The MID is designed for multimedia consumption on the go. It’s extremely portable with an ideal screen size (4-5”); it’s fully connected and armed with a strong (low power consumption) processor. The fact that it runs on a scaled down Linux makes it accessible and fast. But, what really separates it from the UMPC is its sub $500 target price.
Before year end ,Intel hardware partners are planning to release these products: LG Xnote, BenQ, Aigo, Lenovo MID.
Although experts have no real world experience with the MID – it’s shaping up as the preferred choice; if you plan to develop an augmented reality game this year – I would single out the MID as your #1 device.

When the flood of MIDs comes upon us, here is the criteria I suggest to separate the wheat from the chaff:
* screen size between 3.5″-5.5″ (4″-5″ ideal)
* min 65K colors, 800×480 pixels
* strong processor – min 400MHz
* with CGI acceleration (e.g. NVidia APX2500, TI OMAP 3)
* ubiquitous connectivity with cell (3G) and wifi/wimax
* high quality video camera: resolution (640×480), 30 fps
* positioning capabilities (GPS or software based locationing)
* inertial sensors, accelerometers, digital compass
* blue tooth for adding essential accessories
* touch screen – nice too have
* price – below $500; $200 would be ideal for the masses

Now let’s delve into the future; here devices become more conceptual, which means – not proven, yet stimulating. Prepare to be audaciously hopeful.

3. Looking glass (design concept)

In its designer Mac Funamizu’s own words:

“This is what I wish the Internet search will be able to do with a mobile device in the NEAR future. Touch screen, built in camera, scanner, WiFi, Google map (hopefully Google earth), Google search, image search… all in one device. Like this way, when you can see a building through it, it gives you the image search result right on the spot.”

Will anyone ever build it? I don’t know – but it sure looks cool.

2. Glasses

Mirage Innovations is one of the contenders for the future generation

Nokia dubbed mobile phones as the 4th screen (following cinema, TV, PC). According to this count, glasses will be the 5th screen. It spearheads the next generation of augmented reality: the “no bag generation”. This is when we become liberated. Handsfree. The interactive overlays on top of reality surround us anywhere we look. Can we start developing games for glasses? not quite yet. They still lack built in cameras, eye tracking, and tend to cause dizziness. Should we start thinking about it? Absolutely. Rolf Hainich has dedicated a book to this concept and aptly called it the end of hardware. Ben Averch writes about this market in his future-looking blog.

Companies to watch:


Microvision is working on lightweight eyewear for augmented reality


Lumus Optical has just launched their new and slick eyewear


Vuzix from military to consumer video eyewear

Here is the criteria I recommend to use to evaluate the progress of contending eyewear companies:
* looks and weighs like regular sun glasses
* see thru, high resolution display
* integrated camera
* eye tracking
* position and movement sensors
* integrated sound

1. Contact Lens

Darpa project for the creation of micro- and nano-scale display technologies

Apart from topping the list of “things you wouldn’t borrow from a friend”, contact lens leap to the top spot of AR devices. Normally, the mere thought would be scientifically dismissed as “too far off”, but this Darpa project makes it slightly more conceivable. In Vernor Vinge’s Rainbows End near future novel – everybody (except retreads) wears them. It becomes a natural extension of human intelligence, with user interface that can be summed as squint and gesture. It gives itself away only due to the occasional blank stare which is typically confronted with: “are you googling again!?”.
The story is taking place in 2025. Not too far off.

Back to the present: Scientists at the University of Washington have already created a proof of concept – see video below.

Didn’t make the list
* Laptops – laptops were used extensively during the “kit bag” generation as a key ingredient of the back pack, but during the hand bag generation – no one wants to the roam the streets tethered to a laptop. First implementation of Plundr ran on a laptop – but gamers soon clamored for the Nintendo DS version.
* Zune – should it be?…
* Brainchips – beyond the horizon of contact lens lies the world of brainchips . I am not touching this one with a 12 foot pole…I consider myself a technology enthusiast, but this makes me feel uneasy. I want to always have the choice to de-augment my reality when I’ve had enough. Hard connections into my brain may deprive me from that right.

Many thanks to the expert contributors: Daniel Wagner, Charles Woodward, Blair McIntyre, Peter Wojtowicz, and Jose Carlos dos Santos Danado (YDreams).
What’s your take? I really want to hear from you.