Augmented Field Guide

The New York times ran a story yesterday about a new breed of field guides, those made not out of paper, but out of data bytes and computer vision algorithms.
The article mostly revolved around a new application coming to the iPhone, that enables users to take photographs of leaves and by doing so identify the tree to which they belong.
The computer tree guide is good at narrowing down and finding the right species near the top of the list of possibilities, he said. “Instead of flipping through a field guide with 1,000 images, you are given 5 or 10 choices,” he said. The right choice may be second instead of first sometimes, “but that doesn’t really matter,” he said. “You can always use the English language — a description of the bark, for instance — to do the final identification.”

The technology comes from this group at Columbia University, which on their site you can find the academic papers describing the algorithms that were used in prior incarnations of that application. Now, I know some of you will say that this is not AR, since no image-registering was involved. Well, it fits my definition of AR (it augments our reality), and if you are not convinced yet that this item belongs on this humble blog, take a look at the next clip, that involves a HUD, and fiduciary markers:

Anyway, I find this use of AR fascinating. It could really connect kids with nature, detaching them from the computer screen for a while, and transforming any outside walk into an exploration. What do you think?


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