Augmented DJ by Wrigley

The good guys from UK based creative agency Exposure and the Australian AR wizards from Boffswana show us that using augmented reality in a campaign, doesn't necessarily means having a "look at the novelty" brain dead application (unlike, say, the Always one).
For the coming launch of Wrigley's 5 brand of gums in France, they have created an application that lets users mix together club-music via AR markers. There are three markers representing gum flavors, each linked to a certain track, and one master marker to rule them all. The markers' distance from the master marker and their relative angles determine the volume and effects for each track.

Once you have become experienced in the ways of the augmented DJ, you can record your own mix, upload it to the site's gallery, and even embed it in your blog. Now, since I'm tone-deaf, and my laptop is not strong enough to register four markers at once, I'm going to embed a creation by some other guy (sorry Games Alfresco and RSS readers, no embedding for you):

Now, I'm well aware that the idea of an augmented reality DJ set is not a new one. As a matter of fact, just a few weeks ago we've learned about the ARDJ art project. And this application is not perfect, as it requires a good computer and setting to work, and the embedding issue could be solved if videos were hosted on Youtube. Nevertheless, we should recommend Exposure and Boffswana for not going with the easy solution, and creating a very interactive experience (only Living Sasquatch is in this league, also done by Boffswana). Now, lets see more campaigns of this kind instead of the other "novelty" kind.

Augmented Reality, Now with Wings

Proctor & Gamble has launched a new AR campaign to promote some kind of Always "Infinity Pads".

Since I've offended to many people in the last few weeks I'll keep mum this time. However, the kind people at AgencySpy, who are also responsible for uploading the above video to Youtube, had this to say:

This campaign is complete crap. ...
P&G pitched the AR piece to you ladies as magic, which of course it isn't. This is the kind of advertising that reiterates how ineffective "look at me" work truly is. It's also annoying and dilutes the power of this new tool for those who have salient ideas for how to use it.

Even more amazing is that this is not even the first AR campaign for feminine product to have an AR ad. Kotex (in Turkey) had one a few months ago.

via AgencySpy where you can also read the ridiculous press release by Proctor & Gamble.

Nerds Augment Themselves to become Optimus Prime

For some reason, one of my most successful posts, was the one about Total Immersion's promotion for Transformers 2, where everyone had the chance to virtually try an Optimus Prime mask.
Now, a bunch of nerds (no other word to describe them, sorry), have taken their Transformers fandom to a whole new level. If you are a pregnant woman, younger than 15 or suffer from heart arrhythmia, please don't push the play button. You see, AR entering the mainstream is not always a good thing:

Bokode - Amazing New Type of Barcode

I find the next piece of research so amazingly cool that I can't understand how I've missed for so long (a whole three days!). Submitted to next month's SIGGRAPH, MIT's Media Lab Bokode is a new way to visually code information.
I'm not going to try to explain the technology behind it (that's what the paper for), but it a nutshell it uses a small light source to create an image consisting of thousands of pixels. The pixels are only discernible when a camera is looking at the Bokode while its focus is set to infinity. I hope the next video explains it better:

As the video above shows, there are very nice implications to augmented reality. Aside from coding the identity of the object, it can also encode how's the object positioned in comparison to your camera. Though, if I understood correctly, the demonstration above uses two cameras, one shooting the object in focus, while the other looks at the Bokode.
Another obstacle in the way of wide adoption is that the Bokode currently requires an energy source to operate. Nevertheless, it has already taken a step in the right direction, and currently have a short page on Wikipedia.
More information here and here. Via

Weekly Linkfest

Another lazy summer week has passed by (unless you live below the equator), bringing us some more augmented reality news:

This week's video comes to us from Italian Giancarlo Facoetti, who used ARToolKit to create a simple game, that actually looks like some harmless fun:

Have a nice week!

Mattel Launches Augmented Toys at Comic Con

Barbie maker Mattel, and augmented reality provider Total Immersion, have joined forces to bring the public the first retail toys that are AR enhanced (or so says their press release). Unveiled today at Comic-Con 2009, each product in Mattel's line of action figures and vehicles based on James Cameron coming film Avatar will come with a -

3-D web tag, called an i-TAG, which consumers can "scan" using a home computer's webcam. Scanning the i-TAG will reveal special content onscreen unique to the corresponding product. Exact content varies for each item, but could include biographical information, additional images and animated models of the figures. When the i-TAG for deluxe figures, vehicles or creatures are placed under a webcam, animated 3-D models will "come alive" through engaging, evading or defending moves. Place two i-TAGs from the "Battle Pack" together and the 3-D images will interact with each other.

3d web tag? Sounds impressive, but thanks to this next video clip, we can all see it's nothing more than a marker card:

Still, it looks cool and I'm quite sure it's gonna be a hit this Christmas season (unless the film itself bombs). Pity they used such a convoluted term for it.

press release, via I4U news.

ARound: You know, for Nokia users

[A short apology. A few days ago, in a bout of paranoia, I wrote a short post suspecting that Sequence Point's ARound may be some kind of malware. I jumped to conclusions due to some intriguing aspects in Sequence Point's site. I should have contacted the developers before posting, but regretfully I did not. After David Caabeiro of Sequence Point contacted me, I quickly pulled the post, understanding my mistake. Here's setting the record straight]

Got a Nokia N97 phone and envy all those cool guys with their slick iPhones or Android phones with their cool augmented reality applications? Yearn for the days when Nokia was a leader in mobile AR? Spanish company Sequence Point Software might have the solution for your desires.
Called ARound, this is the Symbian equivalent of Wikitude and Layar. Using GPS and compass readings (though future versions may include object recognition), ARound overlays the video input with points of interest gathered from 3rd party data sources, and provides details on close by landmarks.

Designed to be pluggable, ARound may interest developers as well. David Caabeiro of Sequence Point writes:
Our idea is allowing 3rd party developers to add value at different
levels of the application in a simple way: We realize Symbian is not
the easiest platform to play around so this hopefully makes things
easier for developers interested to include Symbian in their
offerings. The first plugins to be made available for developers will
be the so called "data sources", which will allow them to integrate
any content (from mashups, etc) into the application. Later some other
plugin details will be made available, allowing further customization
and integration into existing applications. For example, one of the
first goals is adding OpenGL support for those interested in doing
more advanced rendering.

Best of all, a beta version can be downloaded freely, so if you are a N97 owner, go check it out, and share your impression in the comment section.

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.

Cool Augmented Business Card from Toxin Labs

While the whole web is gushing over James Alliban's augmented business card, I find the next implementation even more exciting. Don't get me wrong, Alliban's card is cool, but this one is a bit more useful:

Augmented Business Card from jonas on Vimeo.

It was created by Jonas Jäger, and more importantly, he doesn't plan to keep the technology to himself. Jäger plans to release a front-end application that will let you create your own "presentation" that will be displayed when your business card is flashed in front of a web camera. It uses a QR code to identify your card from others, and an AR marker to have FLARToolKit something to get a fix on. All in all, it answers Thomas Carpenter's call to create a service for these kind of augmented business cards, and really looks good.

(Augmented Business Card at Toxin Labs)

Weekly Linkfest

This passing week's trending augmented reality topics were AcrossAir's Tube Locator (which is two weeks old) and James Alliban's augmented business card (which is over a month old, can't see why it became so popular suddenly). Let's hope next week will bring some fresh AR news. As a matter of fact, tomorrow I'll cover an even cooler augmented business card concept. In the meanwhile, here's this week's linkfest:
Weekly quote:

However, I am nervous about the potential AR hype bubble. I'm pushing
"real AR" (which right now means tabletop) and the importance of tight
registration whenever I talk to the press or companies, because I want
as many people to realize that whether these apps succeed or fail
should not really be used as a metric of the potential success or
failure of AR.

Blair MacIntyre from an interesting discussion on the AR Forum whether the recent set of GPS based applications are AR or not (a point I've briefly touched here. I much prefer those pseudo AR application over the novelty AR applications).

This week's video comes to us from Dutch design company Strafwerk. They described this video as "welcome to the future", but I think it's actually worse than Zugara's clothes shopping application (which wasn't that great on itself):

Locate your Family & Friends via Augmented Reality

Chris Hughes, brings us the following augmented reality application for the iPhone 3GS, that helps you locate your family and friends. I bet that in these dire economic times, locating those who owe you money (or people you owe them money, so you could run away) could have been an even better premise.

iPhone 3GS Augmented Reality from Chris Hughes on Vimeo.

Hughes is not going to submit it to the Appstore, since it connects to the iPhone's private camera API. Nevertheless, it's just another example to how (relatively) simple it is these days to create a barrier AR application.

(oh, and some technorati nonesense - 8pwcsjxrae)

French Augmented Reality Special!

France celebrates today the Bastille Day, and it's a fantastic opportunity to have a quick review at all the French AR companies we have covered previously on this blog. If I happen to miss your favorite company, please forgive me (I rushed this post), and please leave a comment so I may update this post later.

Total Immersion
Almost every other week we feature a new AR application by the French AR powerhouse Total Immersion, but my favorite thus far was this AR ride they installed at Le Futuroscope:

We all know Int13 from their innovative Kweekies game, but do you remember this amazing real/virtual world interaction?

FittingBox & Alessandro 1313
We covered FittingBox in this post, discussing magic-mirrors. They specialize in letting you virtually try on glasses and shades and made the quite famous Ray-Ban's application.
As for Alessandro 1313, we haven't covered them before. As a matter of fact, I don't know much about them. They operate the site which looks like it's using FittingBox technology (and they link to FittingBox from their blog), but I may be wrong.

Ubisoft is better known for its computer games, but they also collaborated with Microsoft France in turning your MSN Messenger into an AR experience:

Mobilizy Responds

I have been warmongering last week, with a couple of posts that mainly target Mobilizy of Wikitude fame ("Battle of the AR Browsers" and "Updates from the Front Line"). Mark A.M. Kramer of Mobilizy left the following response to my last post:
Dear Rouli,

Thank you for the round-up of what has happened in the AR world this week. A lot has happened as you are well aware.

First of all, we at Mobilizy do not see ourselves in an AR war. We are just tired of all the attention given to SPRXMobile and Layar when we are well aware that most users of Layar are only in the Netherlands and the whole world is giving its attention to Layar as if it was the first AR application/browser in the world. WIkitude is global and we have over 130,000+ users around the world.

Also, we have worked with SPRXMobile in the past and they are well aware of the outcomes of that working relationship. We are coders, developers, AR techies. WE love crafting software that is useful and makes people happy. What we do not do well is marketing, and that is one of the many strengths of SPRXMobile and Layar. In reality, we would make an amazing strategic alliance together with our combined strengths.

With regards to Acrossair: We have respect for their new application even if we did say we thought the demonstration was a mock-up. It still is hard to tell really. We do know that the camera api is not officially open for development on the iPhone from other applications (we are developing onthe iPhone too!) This means that Acrossair is using a hack to accomplish what they have done. Hopefully Apple will change its mind and open the api up for develoment.

This is what we wrote about Acrossair:
@Kjeld @oheckmann The people at acrossair made a wonderful MOCK- Video: you can tell it is fake if you look closely.

This is a mock-up of our iPhone prototyping. We have the compass and GPS functioning, no camera API yet!

We are excited that the field of mobile AR is taking off! We are happy to work with anyone and everyone to advance this nascent field.


Mark of Mobilizy / WIkitude

Weekly Linkfest

And yet another week ends, full with exciting AR news. Some news items were put aside in order to make place to more urgent reports. Luckily, the weekly linkfest is here to mend things up.
This week's video is of a little application you might have heard about, called tweet TwittAround.
It enables you to see tweets overlaid on top of the video input coming from your iPhone 3GS. Tweets are rendered according to the location they are coming from. Interestingly, this project comes from the same guy, Michael Zoellner, that is behind some other cool AR applications.

Have a nice week!

Updates from the Frontline

Continuing my coverage of the augmented reality browser wars, here are the latest news (well, some of them are a few days old, excuse me for procrastinating a bit):

AcrossAir is not satisfied with letting you find the closest subway station in London (where it's called The Tube), it also has its sights on the NY subway system:

If you remember correctly, Mobilizy, makers of Wikitude, claimed AcrossAir's application demo is nothing but a mock-up. Seems real to me.
Anyway, Mobilizy is working hard to remind people that Wikitude augmented the world way before SPRXMobile's Layar. Moreover, one of their tweets suggests that Layar was based on Wikitude's technology. Indeed, SPRXMobile did cooperate with Mobilizy once, when creating their ATM finder, but it doesn't prove that Layar is Wikitude in disguise.
Mobilizy also released this video demoing their Wikitude API, and did not miss the opportunity to include some sarcastic remark towards its end:

And in the Eastern front, TechCrunch reports on the almost final version of Tonchidot's Sekai Camera. Compared this video -

With what we have been promised a year ago:

Well, at least they still have something to aspire to.

Amateur Saturday

No better way to relax from a week of covering the battle between augmented reality browsers (the fight continues, more updates later on), like playing an exciting game of ARhero™:

This fun little game, called DaftMania, comes to us from three guys based in the Netherlands. It is one of the finalists in a competition named "Are you better than Microsoft?", set to find the most valuable useless application. Try it online over here (disclaimer - I did not try it myself due to a current lack of a web camera, so it may not be functional at all).

TAT Augmented ID is Beautiful/Creepy

One of the oldest concepts in the mobile AR community is using augmented reality to match a person with his/her identity. The Swedish software and design company TAT
just unveiled their own take on this "augmented id" with the aptly named Augmented ID. Using face recognition and tracking technology from Polar Rose, TAT enables you to check up one's web identity by looking at him through your mobile's camera, as the following concept shows:

It's very pretty, but just be sure that before pointing your mobile at some beautiful girl on the street, you could out-run her boyfriend.
(via engadget)

Battle of the AR Browsers

See update at the end of this post (if only I've waited ten more minutes!)

Three weeks after its launch, SPRXMobile's Layar partially opens up its layer creation API to developers. It's not freely available online (bad decision?), however, interested developers can register here, and may be among the lucky 50 to get access keys to the API. The press release is here.
Meanwhile, Mobilizy (creator of Wikitude) is not keeping silent. They congratulated SPRXMobile on their twitter account, and placed a comment on Layar's press release:
On behalf of Mobilizy GmbH the developers of the original Wikitude AR Travel Guide we would like to congratulate SPRX Mobile in their efforts to help shape the Mobile augmented reality landscape.

Good Job!

Mobilizy also put this picture depicting Wikitude on the iPhone 3GS, and released the following advertisement video

and commented about AcrossAir's Tube Locator application, saying "you can tell it is fake if you look closely".

All this while both SPRXMobile and Mobilizy are founding members in the new AR Consortium. So, am I making a lot of noise out of nothing? Probably, after all I'm a blogger!

Update: Mobilizy just announced that they will let user add their own tags to the world via and that they open up their API in a closed beta. And thus begins the battle to control the mobile AR world!

Blink-182 Perform in a Doritos Bag

Doritos had several augmented reality campaigns we previously covered (here and here). Now, they let Blink-182 fans watch a virtual concert by the band using a bag of Doritos, a Webcam, and setting their web browswers to this site.

“An online 3-D performance was something we just had to be a part of,” Hoppus said in a press release. “As big technology guys, we’re pumped that people can now experience a little bit of our summer tour through something as accessible as [a] bag of Doritos and a computer.”

It's like nothing we have seen before!

More info on Wired, via The Future Digital Life.

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:

FoodTracer concept+demo from gusepo on Vimeo.

Many more details over here.

Weekly Linkfest

This week wasn't defined by cool videos and nice looking demos, but on the bright side, there were a couple of interesting articles and interviews that will surely tickle your mind:
This week's video is a silly augmented reality tribute to Michael Jackson (please don't get offended if you are MJ fans, I don't say he was silly, I just don't think highly of this tribute). You can try it yourself over here.

Is American Augmented Reality Lagging Behind?

I've been covering augmented reality on this blog for the last six months, and have been following the industry for much longer than that, and I can shake the feeling that while European and Japanese companies are constantly innovating and making AR headlines the US companies are lagging behind. This 4th of July, I wanted to examine if my intuition is true. However, since my resources are limited, and I only considered writing a post about it two days ago, I'm far from having a definite answer. What I'm about to present are mere anecdotes. I urge you to reply and share your thoughts either here as a comment, on your own blog or on twitter.

Mobile AR
Let's first take a look at the sizzling world of mobile AR browsers. These browsers are the closest we've ever gotten to augmented vision ("terminator vision"). In the last year we've seen a lot of development in that area, led by Mobilizy's Wikitude (Austria), SPRXMobile's Layar (The Netherlands), and Tonchidot's Sekai Camera (Japan). The only American companies I've heard of involved in that area are the giants, IBM, Microsoft and Google, though IBM did it in cooperation with Mobilizy, and the last two don't have a real product out there.

Stationary AR
However, as Brian Selzer correctly states, the "U.S. has typically trailed Europe/Japan/Korea with mobile innovation in general". So, let us examine the "immobile" augmented reality world. It seems that there, the European superiority is even more obvious with companies like Total Immersion (France), Metaio (Germany) and YDreams (Portugal) are very prominent (and lest us forget the Australian Boffswana).

As a matter of fact, if one examines the signees on the recent open-letter to Apple to open up the iPhone's camera API, there are only two and a half American companies there (Neogence, Ogmento, and ARToolWorks). If you go through the list of accepted papers to ISMAR08, you'll find out that there are 12 papers authored by European researchers, and only 6 by American researchers (5 papers came from the far-east). Though the conference was held in Britain, and it would be interesting to examine the statistics of ISMAR09, this "research gap" might help to partly explain the "industrial gap".

The Good Points
So, where does it leave the USA? American companies are on top when it comes to utilizing the existing technology in marketing and advertisement, as we have all seen in the last couple of months. Moreover, the US is still leading when it comes to the number of patents issued that deal with AR. US companies, such as SnapTell and GetFugu, are also leading when it comes to augmented shopping. And we shouldn't forget about the American GeoVector, which once held a trademark on the term "Augmented Reality", and was one of the first companies in this area.

Yet, I'm pretty sure the US companies can contribute much more to the world of augmented reality (especially when we see the US contribution to the web). Do you think the same?

AR Goes Underground

That is, to London's subway system. Most tourist facing augmented reality applications are focused on landmarks. But, there's an even more important issue affecting a tourist's visit to an unknown city - how to get around. The city's residents know perfectly well where's the closest subway station that will serve their needs, but a tourist needs to constantly look at maps and look around herself.
To the rescue comes AcrossAir, a British mobile application development company. They have created a simple, yet useful, iPhone application, that shows you where's the nearest tube station. When held horizontally, the application behaves quite like a map, but when the phone is tilted upwards, bubbles signifying stations' presence are overlayed on the video feed. Obviously, this only works on the new iPhone 3GS, since it requires a compass reading.

Here's some obvious further directions from the top of my head, this kind of app could follow:
  • Add more cities around the world, New York should probably be the first.
  • Add more public transportation options, such as buses and regular overground trains.
  • Add route planning, so the application will also recommend which station best suits your needs.
  • Some real time info will be great, like knowing when the next train is due.
  • Make it work underground (using cellular tower triangulation in lieu of GPS read), so commuters can be advised where to get off a train, and which line should they take next.
So there's much room to innovate, even in such a niche application.

Virtual products with Augmented Reality

Dutch website (what's with all those Dutch companies lately?), which specializes in social shopping online (e.g. recommendation engines) has just launched a new augmented reality application, letting you see how your favorite electronic products look like in the palm of your hand (or in your living room).
By harnessing the power of your webcam, Flash, and probably FlarToolKit (though, I failed to prove it), you can now try the new iPhone, or that Canon camera you always coveted:

Actually, since style and appearance play a big part these days when we are out to buy a new gadget, I can imagine such an application would have a market (much like those magic mirrors that let you try on jewelery and accessories). Though, IMHO, it could be much improve if instead of simply printing a marker, you would be able to print a simple paper-craft box with markers on its sides, that although will require some folding, will give you some more "hands on" experience.

Mini GamesAlfresco Linkfest

Ori on GamesAlfresco has two interesting posts you may want to check out, if you haven't already.
The first is a poll looking for the best augmented reality game of all times. Since this whole ecosystem is in its infancy, I'll misquote Jan and say that this will be interesting in 20 years….
Next, is this open letter to Apple, to "provide a public API to access live video in real time, on the iPhone", which will allow development and publishing of AR applications for the iPhone. Signed by the industry leaders and top AR researchers, this letter would persuade any developer-oriented company. However, judging from history, I'm afraid that Apple would just ignore it.
Have a nice read and don't forget to vote.