Is it Augmented Reality?

Techcrunch reports on a new experimental augmented reality application by Japanese telecom company KDDI, named Jitsukuukan Toushi Keitai, which according to Techcrunch translates to "handset that allows real space transparency". This app shows you icons and text labels standing for landmarks visible at the direction you are pointing your phone, as detected by GPS and compass readings.
The only problem is that the application shows those icons not on top of a video input, but rather on top of a "3d radar view", as can be seen in the following video:

So is it augmented reality? After all, although we consider such applications as Layar and Wikitude as AR applications since they overlay information on top of the phone's video input, they don't really do much with it. As far as I can tell, SREngine is the only similar application that has some form of image processing within it.

I have the same dilemma with Google's Sky Map:

And there are plenty other "video-less AR applications" around. I for one, think of them as (primitive) augmented reality applications, but don't fancy them too much. They do fetch information stored on the cloud relevant to your current position, augmenting the physical world, but they curtail efforts to improve registering and identification of objects and landmarks. That's why I usually don't cover them. Would you?


David Beaney said...

I think they count. I mean sure, the strict definition of AR probably involves augmenting "live video feeds" or some such, but these still augment "reality" in some sense by giving you information based on your position/orientation etc.
They may be some way off from the kind of stuff we dream about, but I still prefer these over the marker based stuff, I think its definitely a step in the right direction (IMHO).

Thomas K Carpenter said...

I think of AR as anything that interacts with reality as opposed to being static in the computer. So the SkyMap, for me, counts, but barely, because it has to find the direction the phone is pointing.

As you say, though, these are primitive applications of the technology. As I think of it, the GPS+YahooMaps (shows your current location on the map) on my iPhone would count based on my definition.

Daniel said...

It is not AR. Wikitude is maybe a border-case of AR, but Layar is clearly not AR.

The definition of AR does say anything about "put some content in front of a video". So just because somebody does so does not make it AR...

David Beaney said...

@Daniel: There is no "official" definition of AR. The best we have to that IMO is Ronald Azuma's definition:

1. Combine real and virtual
2. Interactive in real time
3. Registered in 3-D

This is from his paper "A Survey of Augmented Reality. Presence: Teleoperators and
Virtual Environments"

As far as I see the applications fit this definition except possible number 1. But I don not think this is a big deal. Take Sky Map for example, I mean the data returned is about "real" objects that exist in the sky. Would it make a whole lot of difference if the camera was turned on? I mean apart from making the app unusable. :)

Also, just to complicate things some people make a distinction between "augmented reality" and "augmented vision", the latter of which presumably needs a camera. Anyway, just my two cents.

rouli said...

@Daniel, I'm just wondering, what's the big difference between Wikitude and Layar, that makes the former AR in your opinion, and the latter not?

Daniel said...

Wikitude fits the definition of AR, but its registration is of very low quality and speed. This is due to the sensors used. So for me Wikitude is a border case of AR.
Layer uses the same sensors, but is not AR for me, since it does not do full 3D registration or overlay. It is more advanced in the sources that it combines though and I therefore find it more interesting than Wikitude.
I hope that we'll see a more elaborate (or let's say updated) definition of AR one day. Right now, there are many applications that fit some of the definitions of AR, but not all. Most of what is presented in the media nowadays as AR is kind of an AR-light: It has aspects of AR (e.g. showing virtual on top of real), but it does not fit the understanding that researchers have for AR.

Julian said...

With the term Augmented Reality being used increasingly liberally I think this article is well timed.

Cultural studies academics and media-theorists are not a good point of reference for defining what AR is, a term that has been used with clarity in the computer science community for quite some time.

AR is a branch of computer vision that seeks to combine digital content with that of a live video feed by tracking features in the video stream (whether 'natural' or artificial, like fiducial markers). In the course of finding these features the video must be processed: edges, 'objects' (like images or faces) and blobs are examples of features that can be tracked on a per frame basis. Once the feature has been detected, Pose Estimation (orientation and position) can be performed to transform and composit the digital content such that it appears part of the scene.

The development of AR closely parallels that of artificial vision systems, developed for use in robotics and the military in particular. OpenCV is a good example of an API that bridges these two disciplines.

In Layar, the video stream is merely a backdrop for the content making the overlay relationally meaningful for the viewer. The video is not processed and no features are tracked. While Layar 'augments' the scene for the viewer, it is no more 'AR' than crosshairs on a periscope.

(Not to say it isn't a super API/project in itself!)



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