Weekly Linkfest

Pizzas, Ghosts and Robots, all making augmented reality news this week:
Quote of the week comes from that WSJ article:
Madison Avenue has high hopes for the gimmick. "It's the new bright and shiny object that marketers want," says Tom Bedecarre, chief executive of AKQA, a San Francisco digital marketing firm that created the Postal Service campaign. AKQA is currently pitching several of its clients' campaigns that include the technology.
Which means we should expect more bad novelty augmented reality ahead.

And to start off the coming week, here's a nice clip showing projected pong game, made by two students from the IT University of Copenhagen. Here you can find out how they did it, and see some behind the scenes pictures.

Wack an Augmented Mole

Or rather, wack a Portuguese advertisement monster. I'm not quite sure what's this thing all about (since I don't read Portuguese), but judging from the Google translation of this page, this is some kind of kit sent by a Brazilian media company to teach its clients about the four monsters of bad advertisement. Again, this is an educated guess, if any one of my readers can help out with explaining what's going on, please leave a comment.

You can try it yourself, here. Don't worry, they let you print out the markers if you don't have the kit, so you only need to find a hammer. It seems fun, so I give it "thumbs up".

My.IKEA has a Live Demo

Just a short update that I think justifies its own post, the ad concept I fancied so much yesterday, has a live demo online. Robin Westergren, the art director student who is behind this concept, and Stopp, which is a Swedish "creative facility" have uploaded a live demo showcasing the technology. Now, you can try out the Lack table and the Ektorp loveseat before you buy.

Try it yourself, here (after printing the markers over here).

Useful AR from the US Postal Service

The USPS has a very neat AR application, which is also surprisingly useful. Using FLARToolKit, you can now see if the stuff you intend to send fits in any of the flat-rate boxes. As the novelty augmented reality fad becomes old very quickly, I hope more companies will favor a more useful approach to AR.

Try it yourself here, via Living in Augmented Reality.

Future Lions Love AR

Future Lions is a yearly competition that allows student to show off innovative concepts in the world of advertisement. Winners are honored at the Cannes Festival but all participants get free exposure to leading agencies. This year's concept was to "develop an idea for advertising a global brand in a way that would not have been possible five years ago". Naturally, many students picked augmented reality. Here's a quick scan of some of them (as surely more will surface in the coming days). You do have to remember that all videos featured below are just concepts, and no "real" augmented reality was involved. It does show how young advertisers (or at least some of them) are trying to go beyond Novelty-AR, and look for true ways to complement their campaigns via augmented reality (unlike say, the guys behind the Papa Johns campaign).

Geepseed - an augmented reality Tamaguchi for Greenpeace

It's like int13's Kweekies with an environmental saying behind it.

Try out IKEA furniture before you buy
When Meaio created their iLiving application, I was a bit skeptical, but somehow this next clip makes me see what a great idea this is after all, especially for a company like IKEA. If I were IKEA, investing in such technology would be the first item on my schedule. Update: It's alive!

My.IKEA from Robin Westergren on Vimeo.

Gatorade virtual coaches
I had a similar idea once, it looked better in my imagination :)

Yo!Sushi Augmented Menus
This falls in the novelty category. Why would anyone want to see sushi in 3d?

Augmented tee-shirts for United Colors of Benton
We've seen a similar (working) demo from Squidder, and it better suits Threadless anyway.

Disney's Up characters come to life
What Topp's augmented baseball cards should have been.

Facebook world
We all had that idea sometime, now Alex Hachey shows us how it would look (you should not use AR when crossing a road)

Honorable mentions:

Augmented Reality at Where 2.0

A video of the mobile reality panel at last week's Where 2.0 conference, featuring Raven Zachary (raven.me) Mok Oh (EveryScape Inc.) Will Carter (Nokia Research Center Hollywood) Ori Inbar (Pookatak Games, Inc.) Anthony Fassero (earthmine, inc.).
Though Ori is the only one showing any real AR examples, and readers of this blog probably have already seen them, I still think it's worth while to watch:

Weekly Linkfest

Well, a very slow week in terms of augmented reality comes to an end. Though the Where 2.0 conference was held this week, there is still no video of the mobile reality panel Ori attended. The slow week also explains why the top post on Game Alfresco was "Top 10 augmented reality demos that will revolutionize video games" for the third week in a row, and on Augmented Times it was the post about the new SREngine video.

Anyway, here are some more augmented-reality related news from around the web:
  • South Korea is investing twelve billion won on augmented reality research. It translates to about 10 million US dollars. Interestingly, South Korea is behind 24% of the world's AR related patents (just after the US and Japan, and twice the number of EU patents). Thanks David for the tip!
  • New Scientist: "Innovation: How cellphones will enhance reality". Nothing really new in there (Enkin, Nokia's MARA and Wikitude are mentioned).
  • Julian Perretta has a whole clip accessible through FLARToolKit for his song "Ride my Star".
  • New video of Tonchidot's Sekai Camera surfaces.
  • From the Where 2.0 - "Wearable Sensory Substitution Devices for Navigation". Augmenting other senses (other than sight) for those who are vision impaired or suffer from Alzheimer. One of my first posts was about this topic, and I'm glad to see that AR is used for helping others.
Finally, the video clip of this week comes from this Coca Cola campaign, making the rounds on Twitter. Looks fun, I guess:

Freaky Friday - Cadavers and Skelator

The following video comes as a comment for my previous post "X-Ray Vision via Augmented Reality", which dealt with using image processing techniques to make virtual projects look better situated within our reality (as opposed to floating-around). Denis Kalkofen wrote-in about the following project by TU Munich presented in ISMAR 2007 (watch out, first minute features the back of a cadaver, but the second part features a nice, lively, girl):

The more realistic integration of virtual objects is carried by blending them with the skin of the patient. The opacity of the skin is determined by several parameters, one of them is its local curvature (which makes the nose stand out). The registration of the scene is another feat of engineering, with three cameras (one of them infrared) on the head mounted device, and 6 more hanging from the room's ceiling. It's a far cry from what available for mobile-AR developers, but it shows that the industry has much to aspire to.

More details, here.

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.

Thanks AR for Pimping my Car

If you ever want to get beaten up, try driving around with your augmented car rims, brought to you by Metaio:

Weekly Linkfest

This week's top post on Games Alfresco was, for the second week in a row, Top 10 augmented reality demos that will revolutionize video games". On Augmented Times it was my old rant about using AR to market cars.
Here are some other weekly augmented reality news from around the web:
  • Thomas Carpenter had some great posts this week (he is a fierce contender for the top AR blogger spot), but his best was surely this one, where he interpolates current trends to come to the conclusion that Augmented Vision will be available circa 2015.
  • ReadWriteWeb discovers augmented reality.
  • LittleProjectedPlanet takes Little Big Planet and translates it to the projected AR format, or so they say.
  • Not only Star Trek, Night at the Museum 2 (what were they thinking?) , uses AR for promotion (in Australia), but in a tired "novelty" way. Best of all, they claim it's the "first time ever in the world that it's been done with newsprint" (source). Obviously they come from a different world than I do.
  • McCANN New York brings us an augmented reality pencil application to scribble on our screens.
  • BMW took its augmented reality campaign to promote the Z4 model to the streets of London, and actually got a cool video.
And, as usual, here's a short clip to welcome the next week. Using augmented reality British Football fans (soccer) can see themselves lifting the FA Cup using this web application. And here's a nice quote from this clip's Youtube page - "FA Cup sponsor E.ON has applied the latest military technology known as Augmented Reality to the oldest domestic cup competition in the world". Apparently, FLARToolKit is a military technology :)

Augmented Mammals of the past

Last week I wrote about using augmented reality to experience hypothetical animals from the far future. Now, the American Museum of Natural History in New York brings us augmented mammals of the distant past*:

I don't have my web camera to try it out, but as you can see, there's nothing special there. Currently, you can only play with the batodonoides, the smallest mammal to ever live, though you can leave them your email to get an update when they add other models. It's just a nice break from all those commercially oriented AR applications.
Via Tethys News.

* Well, to be truthful, the exhibition is called extreme mammals, and some of the mammals are contemporary and are still living among us (if you happen to live in Australia).

X-Ray Vision via Augmented Reality

The Wearable Computer Lab at the University of South Australia has recently uploaded three demos showing some of its researchers' work to Youtube. Thomas covered one of those, AR Weather, but fortunately enough, he left me with the more interesting work (imho).
The next clip shows a part of Benjamin Avery's PhD thesis, exploring the use of a head mounted display in order to view the scenery behind buildings (as long as they are brick-walled buildings). If understood correctly (and I couldn't find the relavant paper online to check this up), the overlaid image is a three-dimensional rendition of the hidden scene reconstructed from images taken by a previously positioned camera.

The interesting thing here is that a simple visual cue, such as the edges of the occluding items, can have such a dramatic effect on the perception of the augmented scene. It makes one wonder what else can be done to improve augmented reality beyond better image recognition and brute processor power. Is it possible that intentionally deteriorating the augmented image (for example, making it flicker or tainted), will make a better user experience? After all, users are used to see AR in movies, where it looks considerably low-tech (think Terminator vision) compared with what we are trying to build today.

Anyway, here's Avery himself, presenting his work and giving some more details about it:

More Core Tools for Augmented Reality

Last week Microsoft held an "Enabling Innovation Through Research" event at its Cambridge research labs, and demoed many of its projects. Core Tools for Augmented Reality was one of those projects, presnted by Simon Winder:

Well, there's nothing in this video we haven't seen before, to be precise, two months ago at Microsoft's Techfest (click for my previous blog post). Even the same bubble oriented treasure hunt game was shown then. The technology itself is based purely on image recognition, using the same concepts behind Microsoft's Photosynth. Some more details (but not too many) can be found on the project's web page.

Via The Future Digital Life and Developement Memo for Ourselves.

Kotex Augmented Reality

Not really news, since it's three months old, but finally a demo video surfaced on Youtube. I find it strange that those are obviously a man's hands on the clip, but maybe it's just me.

It's an ad that ran on Turkish newspapers, where you could find the marker and a link to the site. Suddenly those augmented reality car campaigns don't look so bad anymore.

Stop Using AR to Sell Cars - Part Two

Nissan has a new augmented reality campaign to promote their cars. It's much better than their old campaign promoting only the Cube, but it's still meh. But don't you think that they didn't consider my plead to stop using AR to sell cars (go there to see their former use of AR, as well as many other augmented car campaigns). They actually think that's the right decision. Here, see for yourself:

No video this time, sorry. Via Twitter, on every other mention of augmented reality.

AR Game Designs from Georgia Tech

The Augmented Environments lab at Georgia Tech (AELatGT) has recently uploaded to Youtube videos showing off many games developed as projects in the "HAR: AR Game Design Studio" class last year. Blair MacIntyre's students came up with some interesting ideas (some would say unconventional), but in my view, there's one clear winner -
Candy Wars is a physics oriented game, played with your fridge magnets, where the goal is to feed a frog until it explodes. Things couldn't be better:

Many more video goodies can be found on AELatGT's Youtube page. Just a little tip - don't be tempted by the name, GuitAR hero, is nothing more than a rickroll in AR disguise.

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?

Weekly Linkfest

This week top post at Games Alfresco was the always classic "Top 10 augmented reality demos that will revolutionize video games", if you haven't read it, do yourself a favor and take a look. Lagging far behind, the top post on Augmented Times was "Augmenting Deformable Surfaces".

Here are some more AR related news from around the web:
  • If you can't take augmented reality with you for a dive, you may bring augmented fish to your room, with this project from Canon.
  • I've missed that last week, but apparently, Microsoft hired interactive design firm INVIVIA to create videos for some group named "Volume Studios". That group goal is to "explore in a poetic narrative way how certain developing technologies could begin to blend and augment our daily lives”. Check out two of the (rather bizarre) video at "i started something".
  • Drawing in three dimensions, a futuristic design at Yanko Design.
  • If you always wanted to play an augmented reality game where your goal is to dip chicken nuggets, you need not look any further.
  • Wired is joining the AR fun.
  • It's always great to see amateur programmers' take on AR. This video combined augmented reality with emerging patterns, and I find it lovely
Quote of the week comes from this post at Locative Lab, describing the connection between horror movie "They Live" and the state of augmented reality:
“They Live” in my mind is the canonical, defining vision of what any sort of Augmented Reality should start with. Sort of presenting an “anti” world — the world made strange so that we see it in a different way. Reconstructed. No Pink Pony scenarios or anything that makes the engineer-accountants get eager, sweaty palms. Weird stuff to invert things and better see the alternative possibilities beyond way-finding, tour-guiding, and informatic overlays of measured data.
I don't exactly agree with this position, but it is an interesting take on what should our augmented future look like.
And finally, to start off the next week with a good feeling, here's an interesting project, bringing World of Warcraft multiplayer mini games to a desk near you. It's nothing special, but looks very exciting (at least more exciting than playing the same games using a keyboard):

Augmented Animals of the Future

It's old news, but I'm allowed to be late since I had to overcome a language barrier. Since 2008, Le Futuroscope, which is a really cool theme park in France with many cinematographic related attractions, has a ride named "les Animaux du Futur" (animals of the future). Based on the BBC show "The Future is Wild", this ride, created by Total Immersion, takes you through futuristic landscapes and lets you interact with the animals occupying them.

Since its inception, the ride had a home version, that enabled you to see some animals come to life on an AR marker. To welcome a new version of the ride, launched last month, the home version went one step further, and enabled users to play with the dreaded "octopus monkey", without any need of printed markers. It looks like great fun -

You can try it yourself at this mini-site (via Development notes for ourselves)

The Augmented Real Slim Shady

Let's start with a little contest - whoever comes with a better play on words for a title will be named the king of AR puns.
Polydor Records, which is a British record label and part of Universal Music Group, has set up a competition to promote Eminem's new record Relapse. Contestants are asked to spray a virtual graffiti on an augmented "E" letter (using a FLARToolKit application). Then you may upload your creation to a web-gallery for the whole world to see.

As for the prizes -
You could win the trip of a lifetime to visit Em's home town of Detroit on an all expenses paid trip (flight and accommodation). Plus, once you've touched down you'll be whisked off to attend a top secret official Eminem album launch event.
You see, you don't even get to meet with Eminem himself (who, I guess, was never consulted about this marketing campaign). Currently, the gallery features only two entries, so you may actually "win" it. Go here to try out your luck.

Kevin Maguire of Outsideline reports that they have now made a "how-to" video (here), and that "Universal Music have already awarded a trip to Detroit, and have another amazing prize up their sleeve for the next round of entries".

Freaky Friday - When HUDs Go Wrong

Take a bunch of students from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Let them design an AR device having access to an accelerometer, a gyroscope, a solid-state compass, and of course, to a Garmin GPS output. Let the device use a micro-projector in order to project images on a semi-transparent glass. Given all that, you will surely get a sexy augmented reality device (well, sexiness is in the eye of the beholder).

That's how it looks from the inside:

Outdoor demo from Team Wolf 2009 on Vimeo.

And that's how it looks from the viewpoint of a horrified bystander:

Personal Head-Up Display: Calibration Feature from Team Wolf 2009 on Vimeo.

They call themselves "Team Wolf" and they have uploadep a plethora of clips to Vimeo, where they detail the design and the concepts behind this project. I know, as university projects go, this one is quite successful, and there's no way I could build one myself. However, I still think they could have designed it to be more accessible to the public.

An Interview with Ori Inbar

We may be partners on Games Alfresco, but Ori never told me about interviewing with UgoTrade. It's a very long interview, looking at Ori's past, AR's future and even at electric cars, so there's no one definite quote I can pull out of there.
However, Ori did expose some details about Pookatak Games' first game, to be released this summer:

Tish: I don’t know how much you can say about your app. But in regard to doing augmented reality on the iPhone.. there’s no compass. Is this a limitation?

Ori: True, no compass yet. But the camera gives you a lot of information that you can interact with. When you run the application, you see the world in front of you, and if the app can recognize real life objects - it can put virtual elements on top of it.

Tish: But not with any accuracy unless you’re using markers. Are you using markers?

Ori: We’re using natural feature recognition. It doesn’t have to be an ugly looking marker. It can be any image.

Tish: So you’re using image recognition. Are you working with one of these image recognition startup companies (list here )?

Ori: We’re working with one of those. What’s unique about it is it runs very nicely on any cell phone, and on the iPhone it works the best. For this first app, it doesn’t really matter where you are physically; the geolocation is not part of the experience.
Go here, in order to read the whole interview.

Star Trek's Augmented Reality

On Sunday I wrote:
The new Star Trek movie has some AR in its ARG (but I don't really CARE).
But at the time, I had every reason not to care. First, the augmented reality experience was accessible after playing a long alternative reality game. And then, after all your efforts, you were awarded with this "not so great" AR:

Well, it turns out that there's a better AR application promoting the new Star Trek movie, easily accessible over the net. Created using Total Immersion's D'Fusion, this one let you explore the decks of the Enterprise and fire its weapons by pointing a decent looking marker at your web camera:

Try it yourself on JoinStarfleetAcademy.com.
(via /Film)

Augmenting Deformable Surfaces

I envy those students that create a video demonstrating their research results and then upload it to Youtube. It's a great a way to show others what have you been working on for all those years. Julien Pilet of Keio University, Japan, is one of those students. He recently uploaded two videos showing off his PhD thesis (done at the EPFL), that explores registering and augmenting non-rigid objects using only one regular camera:

AS you can see in the video above, not only the virtual EPFL sticker bends according to the contours of the shirt, its illumination model is adjusted as well (shadows cast on the shirt are cast on the sticker), and it handles occlusions nicely , most of the times. The only requirements are that the augmented object has a non-monotone texture, that it is locally planar and that it lacks holes.

In the next video, the illumination model is more obvious and a bit trickier to handle, since it now interpolates the shadow cast on a 3d model, from the 2d information in the image:

Pilet's work has been used in several projects. One of them you might recall if you were following AR for the last year. It's Camille Scherrer's "Magic Book":

According to Pilet's, he used standard Macbooks Pros to achieve decent rendering times. For example, handling occlusion on a 2.0Ghz single core computer, gets him a rendering rate of 18 frames per second for a resolution 360*288 pixels (slightly worse results are achieved with his illumination algorithms). So, AR of deformable surfaces is probably not coming soon to an iPhone near you, but Pilet's research is a step in the right direction.

Weekly Linkfest

That was quite a week for augmented reality.
The top article at Games Alfresco was "Augmented Fear of Heights" (with about 1000 views!), and on Augmented Times the top post was about Marco Tempest's magic Trick.

There were so many news items this week, I couldn't cover them all even if I wanted to (though, I might cover some of those next week):

Quote of the week comes from Joshua Falken (is that a WarGames reference?), as a comment to the "Augmented Comedy" post:
The widespread usage of standard AR toolkits for non-science by self-proclaimed “AR researchers” is the root cause for the bad reputation that AR has now. If one mentions AR / MR as an area of interest to, e.g., computer graphics or computer vision researchers, one immediately is flagged as a mediocre me-too person. Unfortunately, these stereotypes are now applied to good and bad AR researchers alike. Therefore, a funny clip, but the topic, unfortunately, is very serious. Just ask all the people who have found it practically impossible to acquire research funding for AR topics for the past several years already.
You should go read that thread. Have a look at the replies Falken got and express your own opinion!

Finally, to kick-off the coming week, here's a fun little video of some guys putting the Living Sasquatch application to good use:

Have a nice week!

More Augmented Advertisement

Our friend Diego Gopen has notified us that his augmented advertisements service, ARvertising.com, has a new demo, one that lets you play augmented dice online:

According to him it's "100% random! good for stuff for casinos online ;) because it works with physics so it's impossible to manage".
But beware Diego! There are new competitors in the AR advertisements business! Brian Selzer found that ADmmersion.com has a very similar service. No videos yet, though if you register you can try their very basic FLARToolKit demo.

Combining several proven technologies, ADmmersion™ brings advertising to life like never before – giving consumers access to an interactive experience like none other.

For the first time, consumers aren’t just watching ads – they’re part of the experience and can interact with them directly.

Admmersion.com comes to us from DCSI, a company that according to its site, specializes in those LCD screens at grocery stores that show endless ads. It's good to see they are trying to diversify their business.

Two New Videos of Sekai Camera Surface

One of this blogger's favorite things is being critical of Tonchidot's Sekai Camera. After all, their so called revolutionary technology is nothing more than GPS based augmented reality. Problem is, there is not much information about them, so I had only a small number of opportunities to mock them (here and here).
Now I've found two new videos starring Takahito Iguchi, Tonchidot's CEO, on Dailymotion.com. Both originate from what seems to be a european tour held last month by Iguchi. The first video is a short interview, looking for Iguchi's sources of inspiration, which you can see here.
More interesting is the second video, where Iguchi demos Sekai Camera on the Marketing 2.0 conference held in France. He stops reading from his papers and starts demoing at about 7 minutes in, and I think it's the best overview on how the Sekai Camera works we've seen till now:

I believe it's the first time we see that one can use this application to leave vocal notes. Even better, one can use it to hit on girls. Two other things to notice is the Air Pocket service, that lets you save to your device notes of a specific location, and the Air Filter service that lets you filter the notes visible to you according to several parameters. Still, I don't think that Air Filter alone is going to be enough in order to fight the spam that will plague this application if it ever becomes popular.