Weekly Linkfest

Let's try to make this week's linkfest as concise as possible:
  • Tish Shute interviews Bruno Uzzan, CEO of Total Immersion for UgoTrade.
  • Blair Mcintyre: "Has AR taken off? Is it finally here?", check out the quote below.
  • Augmented reality tested on board the international space station, to help astronauts in maintenance tasks.
  • Another pseudo-AR game whose goal is to catch ethereal creatures - Fairy Trails.
  • Intel looks into augmented reality devices.
  • Total Immersion (those from the first bullet) created a bumping-cars game for Six Flags.
  • You know that AR is really hot when (French) politicians start to use it in their press conferences (powered again by Total Immersion).
AR Browsers:
Ad campaigns of the week:
This week's quote comes from Blair's post I've mentioned above (and yes, I took it out of context, because I'm a blogger!):
Now that the time is here, now that the promised AR apps can be published in the iTunes store, will they be able to live up to their claims, or will they (and their claims) fade away? I suspect things will die down for a little while. At least, I hope things die down for a while
And this week's video comes from YDreams, and you have probably seen it before. It's called Flyar, and it's an interactive screen saver that shows you Twitter updates with birds that respond to your hand-gestures, a la EyeToy. Yeah, the video makes it clearer:

Flyar: Augmented Reality Twitter Visualization App from YDreams on Vimeo.

Have a nice week!

In Germany they have Augmented Elections

Just a short video for this lazy Saturday afternoon. The German federal election are held tomorrow, and the voting form may be confusing for some. Luckily, augmented reality is here to help you do the right choice:

Sounds a bit illegal, though I can see parties using such application for a last minute self-advertisement. Unfortunately, no further details are provided.

Amazing Mobile AR Videos from Graz

Daniel Wagner and our friends from Graz University of Technology bring us another set of amazing videos (previously). Nothing I can say can beat the following videos, so I'll just shut up, and let you enjoy.

The tracking algorithm behind it is PatchTracker that will be featured in ISMAR09. As you can see in the videos, on an Asus P565 the algorithm achieves 30 frames per second. If that's a sign of things we are going to see at ISMAR, we are going to have a great conference!

See the third video and find more details here.

Death of a Browser - Gamaray No More

Today is a sad day for many AR enthusiasts. Just yesterday I've asked how would Layar's new 3d feature affect Gamaray. Now, I unfortunately know the answer. Clayton Lilly, the man behind the Gamaray browser, has decided to quit developing it. In a mail to Gamaray's developers mailing list, Lilly writes:
After hearing the announcements made by Layar and Mobilizy yesterday I've decided to stop developing Gamaray any further. I'll still support the existing version of Gamaray as best I can, although I would suggest applying for a Layar developer key or learning ARML. The main competitive features Gamaray had were 3D objects and its open http/XML architecture. Since Gamaray couldn't compete against the other companies when it had these advantages, there's no point in continuing now that both these features will be covered by the other browsers.

Gamaray was one of the first mobile AR browsers, and took the original approach of embedding 3d virtual objects from the get go. I first interviewed Lilly in June, when he had high hopes for Gamaray. However, even back then, Lilly was
woried about the developing a platform:
Right now we are focusing on the creation of multiplayer AR games for Android, our first one being a tank combat game. Beyond that, it will depend on how the market looks, although we have lots of ideas.
We know that AR is going to be very big in the near future, but the challenge is knowing what to focus our efforts on. For a while we thought of creating a more general purpose AR platform, but I'm concerned that Google may already be developing a first person AR viewer for KML data and 3D models.
I hope that in a world where new AR browsers are created by the minute (I learned about two new ones just today), Lilly and Gamaray would find their niche, and maybe create that tank game.

Layar, Wikitude have News for You

Can I be an augmented reality blogger and have a full time (not AR related) job at the same time? Apparently not. I'm a lousy blogger, and I can only hope I do better at work.
So here's what happened today, in short tweet form:
And here's Noah Zerkin's point of view on the news.

Augmented Reality in Your Hands

Researchers from the University of California Santa Barbara have a lofty goal on their minds - "Anywhere Augmentation", which means augmenting arbitrary environments with little prior preparation. Or as they put it:
The main goal of this work is to lower the barrier of broad acceptance for augmented reality by expanding beyond research prototypes that only work in prepared, controlled environments.

Now, if have been following the world of augmented reality for the last year, you are probably familiar with the following situation. There's some site offering an AR experience, but in order to access it, you have to print at least one black and white symbol. Unfortunately, the marker you have just printed last week, for another site, just doesn't cut it. Each site requires its own marker, that becomes obsolete after two minutes. It's a defining example of prior preparation in order to experience AR, and the researcher at UCSB as a plan to eliminate it.
Enters HandyAR. Instead of using a marker, Taehee Lee and Tobias Höllerer want to track your outstretched hand.

You can even have some minimal interaction with virtual objects, dragging and dropping them, by closing and opening your hand, as the following video shows:

Ain't it cool? You can find much more information over here, where you can also download a binary (Windows) and source code (Visual Studio 2005) to play with.
(via @totalimmersion)

Weekly Linkfest

It's time again for the weekly linkfest. Let's see what else happened this week in the world of augmented reality:
In the realm of mobile browsers:
  • SREngine has a new video out showing its slick user interface.
  • Hong Kong's Leisure Guide - yet another AR browser (YAARB™)
  • Metaio announces the coming release of Junaio, but doesn't give much information about what Junaio really is.
And in other news:
  • Total Immersion now enters the world of soccer trading cards, at least in Italy.
  • You can get pregnant without the morning sickness via the wonders of Flash based AR.
  • The Virtec project is a thesis project using AR to teach about Aztec culture by means of a book and a head mounted display.
This week's video revisits one of this blog's reoccurring themes, the Transformers (previously here and here). This application comes with the Transformers coming DVD, or as this trailer puts it "Prepare for Augmented Reality! An exclusive 3D Holographic Experience!":

Augmented Reality on the Transformers Revenge of the Fallen DVD/Blu-Ray from PPC Interactive on Vimeo.

Have a nice week!

Happy Rosh HaShana

For our Hebrew readers (the three of you):

It's the Jewish new year, and Israeli web design firm Netcraft produced this new year greeting. You can try it yourself here. (thanks Alon!)

Happy Rosh HaShana, Ori!

More Augmented Business Cards

A couple of months ago, the ARSphere was gushing over James Alliban's augmented business card (the one with the pixelated talking 3d face).

AR Business Card from James Alliban on Vimeo.

That nice little creative work led Alliban to recently launch Augmatic, a company that provides augmented reality services, and yes, among them is a personalized augmented business card.

Of course, Alliban is not the only one in the augmented business-cards-business. We have previously featured Toxin Labs. This week sees another implementation, by one Burton Posey, which can only be described as cute (of course, you can choose a more menacing avatar):

Augmented Reality Business Card - Avatar Concept from Burton Posey on Vimeo.

Says Posey:
This is an idea I'd been kicking around in my head since February. I wanted to find a way that a company could deliver a catchy identity for themselves. Avatars, be it the Mii's on the Nintendo Wii, or an Xbox Live Avatar, have become extensions of the people who use them.

You can try his implementation over here. I wonder if any of the guys at ISMAR 09 is going to have augmented business cards.

Concept Glasses to Photoshop Reality

Good magazine has apparently asked some interviewees to imagine that will improve their daily life. The two ladies in the video below, Freya Estreller and Natasha Case, came up with Photoshop Glasses. A first step to improving the world may be seeing how much better it could be:

If you happen to think that's a far fetched idea, you are probably right. However, we already saw head tracking software that puts on virtual masks on faces. So maybe in your next job interview, if the interviewer just looks a tad like your ex-boyfriend, all you'll need to do is wear some dorky glasses, and see him as Optimus Prime.

via Red Tory

Augmented Reality? I'm Loving It

Or used to, I'm currently in the trough of disillusionment. But never mind that, here's how McDonald's Italy chose to promote their new hamburger. Giving new meaning to Bruce Sterling claim that current AR is a bit cheesy.

Try it here.
Previously - Find Nearest McDonald's via AR and Augmented Burger King.

Weekly Linkfest

Actually, it was a relatively quiet week in the ARSphere. Here are some links to news bits that I haven't had the time to cover over here:

In the mobile AR front:
  • Kooaba is an iPhone application that much like Snaptell (or Nokia's "Point and Find") lets you take a picture of a product and get information about it. Now they venture into the realm of AR browsers, but since they fail to show their image-based browser working on a real iPhone, I'll remain skeptic for now.
  • Cyborg is an AR application that helps you find the cheapest gas station around. Yes, they could do that with a simple map, but that's like having a web 2.0 site without rounded corners.
  • And if you live in Hong Kong, forget about gas prices, just use this application to find the nearest train.
And in other news:
This week video comes from Techcrunch's favorite Tonchidot, makers of the Sekai Camera. Apparently their application was finally submitted to the iPhone's appstore, and we may soon compare it to other AR browsers. The next video is indeed in Japanese, but starting from 0:45 you can easily understand what's going on, even if you are not a native Japanese speaker. It certainly has some Japanese flair to it:

Have a nice week!

Follow Friday - AR Favorites in Twitter (part two)

Continuing my endeavor from last week, here are some more recommended accounts to follow on Twitter if you are interested in augmented reality. As promised, today I'm going to focus on mobile augmented reality companies. But first, let me just add two more guys that I absentmindedly missed last time.
  • @chrisgrayson - Chris is the only advertisement guy I'm willing to follow. Many times he finds interesting AR oriented links long before anyone else. Moreover, he is very concise, and won't spam you with mundane links, so there's no reason not to follow him.
  • @thomaskcarpente - Thomas Carpenter is of course the guy behind The Future Digital Life. He's new on Twitter, but if his blog is any sign, you wouldn't want to miss following him on Twitter.
And now, without further ado, mobile augmented reality accounts:
  • @Wikitude - The official account for the Austrian trailblazers Mobilizy. It's really all about Wikitude, and a bit spammy, but there's no better source for news about this application. Advanced users - check out Mark Kramer's account, Mobilizy's human experience lead.
  • @LayarMobile - Probably the world's most famous mobile AR application, Layar is also the most followed account on this list. Mainly about Layar, but sometimes tweets about the external ARSphere. Advanced users - chekout Raimo van der Klein's account, Layar's CEO.
  • @acrossair - makers of London's tube finder AR app (and NY subway, and so on...), and recently their own AR browser.
  • @srengine - One of the few AR applications that is based on image recognition. Partly in Japanese, but you are more likely to see English over its Twitter account than on its official blog.
  • @GeoVector - One of the first players in the field of mobile augmented reality. When their World Surfer browser like application for the iPhone is approved by Apple they may become a strong player in the western hemisphere.
  • @symbiancoder - David Caabeiro's account, one of the developers at Sequence Point Software, makers of ARound, your best option for Symbian based AR.
  • @Robotvision - The AR browser we wrote about here. Only one tweet to date, so advanced users should follow Tim Sears, the guy behind it.
  • @sekaicamera - Tonchidot's Sekai Camera, The AR sensation from Japan. Only five tweets till now, but should warm up as they prepare to launch soon.
Obviously, this list is not comprehensive, and I've probably missed some accounts. If you know of any account that should be added to this list (does Gamaray have one?), please leave a comment, or better yet tweet me. As always, you can follow me on twitter at @augmented.

Find Nearest McDonalds Via Augmented Reality

I'm not even going to give the following video the honor of having a full-length post.
Suffice to say that it's amazing how a couple of months make all the difference between innovator and late-comer. It's called Walkamap and you can find more details about it here.

Augmented Reality is Rounded Corners

Earlier today, Thomas Carpenter posted this video and asked whether the augmented reality mode adds anything to the application.

The answer is probably not. In my opinion we are seeing AR evolving into a cool feature for location based services, much like rounded corners was the cool thing to have if you were a web 2.0 application. Yes, in some applications, like Layar and Wikitude, augmented reality is currently a major feature, but in the long run its the location-oriented content they should focus on, not on how to present it.

Having augmented reality as just another cool feature is not a bad thing. It can actually be the thing that saves it from following the same path that virtual reality went by. Obviously, the hardware today is not good enough for terminator-vision grade of AR. However, having augmented reality play a low-key role for now may keep it around till we'll have the right hardware.

Or maybe I'm just reading too much into a Youtube video. Oh, that reminds me - the application is called WorkSnug, and you can find more about it here.

Augmented Reality Flashlight

The posts I like the most are about student projects. Luckily here's another one.
A couple of students from the German research institute, the Fraunhofer Society created what they name "The Augmented Reality Flashlight". Basically, it's a micro-projector held as a flashlight to shed light (i.e. annotate) objects in your vicinity. Yep, projected AR is not dead after all.

So, what's novel about this technique? After all, we all saw MIT's Sixth Sense half a year ago. One of the students, Robert Brauer explains:

[the novelty is in] The metaphorical approach. The whole "flashlight" thing changes the style of working from the ergonomic perspective - which was our initial motivation.
In technical space I'd say that we concentrate going "pure pinky". Based on the interaction technique there is no need for coloured finger caps. We try to work naturally on and furthermore with the object. Although we really like the MIT project, the finger caps are to us what the stylus was to mobile phones. Unnecessary and annoying.
You can read more details over Brauer's blog. If you are a student that happen to work on an AR project, feel free to send me a mail, I'm just a few clicks away :)

How AR Browsers Should Be...

Frankly, I got tired with AR browsers. When Wikitude first launched I was excited. When Layar came out the whole blogosphere was thrilled. But now (only a couple of months after Layar went public), I'm feeling quite jaded. Everybody and his sister are making an AR browser application, and most of them are just he same.

Apparently, I'm not the only one harboring those feelings. The title of this post is taken from a mail sent to me by Daniel Wagner of Graz University of Technology, one of the best known names in the field of mobile AR. Wagner writes:
Rather than inventing the next (10th?) AR browser, we've been working on generally improving the usability of such applications. My team member Alessandro [Mulloni] has come up with some cool gestures and good ideas on how to avoid information overflow and how to let people easier navigate in a typical AR browser scenario. The result is something like. "this is how an AR browser should actually be" - without restricting to a specific application scenario.

While AR in general is from a first person perspective, Mulloni looked into extending it with panoramic and bird's-eye perspectives, in order to enhance the user's understanding of its surrounding. This is how it looks:

In his paper, Mulloni finds that such smooth transition into other perspectives can really help the user. So, what do you say? A new avenue for AR browsers, or is the real conclusion from this research is that AR still needs to be complemented by a top-down map view in order to be usable?

Weekly Linkfest

Oh, there's just too much to write about this week.
In the mobile AR front:
  • Nokia's researcher Kari Pulli gave a talk last week at the SDForum about Nokia's take on mobile augmented reality (slides). In a nutshell, it should be based on image recognition and accessed using HMD. And here are some more details from the Nokia World event that took part this week.
  • buUuk is an AR browser-like application for Asia, Australia and the middle east. [via DMFO]
  • Discover Anywhere Mobile is a Canadian company set to provide AR application to help you ride North American public transit.
  • While Presselite which brought us Metro Paris has an application for Tokyo that looks much the same.
  • And GeoVector, one of the veteran players in the AR industry is going to release an application for Android named WorldSurfer. They accidently published a post about it in their corporate blog (dated for next week) and then deleted it. Luckily, there's Google Cache.
In the world of novelty AR advertisement:
  • You can check whether the new Samsung LED television fits your living room (which is actually a bit handy).
  • ABC promotes their new thriller FlashForward.
  • I'm not into baseball, so there's something about a Rawlings golden glove over here.
  • You can't escape augmented reality even if you live in Vietnam, thanks to Coca Cola.
In other news:
This week's video comes from Vodafone, which had a lightly augmented version of the game of tag in the Netherlands for the launch of the HTC magic. More details can be found here.

Have a nice week!

AR Reading List for the Weekend

Once again, it was another very prolific week for augmented reality, with a plethora of interesting posts and articles. For those of you who didn't had a time to read them during the week and waited for the weekend to catch-up (like I did), here's a short list of articles that may entertain you for the next hour. Don't worry, the regular linkfest will be here tomorrow, with some more AR fun.

Augmented Reality in a Contact Lens

This was an extremely popular article this week, though, to tell you the truth, it has little to do with augmented reality, and more to do with the challenges facing engineers when creating electronic lenses embedded within contact lenses. However, if you want to peek to the far future, it's an interesting read.
a contact lens with simple built-in electronics is already within reach; in fact, my students and I are already producing such devices in small numbers in my laboratory at the University of Washington, in Seattle [see sidebar, "A Twinkle in the Eye"]. These lenses don’t give us the vision of an eagle or the benefit of running subtitles on our surroundings yet. But we have built a lens with one LED, which we’ve powered wirelessly with RF. What we’ve done so far barely hints at what will soon be possible with this technology.

Games, Goggles, and Going Hollywood…How AR is Changing the Entertainment Landscape
Tish Shute's interview with Ogmento's Brian Selzer. Since Selzer is coming from the entertainment side of things, he is able to give a fresh perspective on where AR should go next, and he discusses how Ogmento is working to fulfill this vision.
I am big on the notion of “Games and Goals.” I believe that games have the power to motivate people in a very powerful way. By challenging ourselves while playing a game we can climb mountains. Augmented Reality is the perfect platform to bring gaming into the real world. By mixing the virtual world with the physical world, this added layer of perception provides a very powerful experience for something like a role-playing game.

Thinking about design strategies for ‘magic lens’ AR
Gene Becker is a silicon valley veteran that has worked in the past for HP on an AR project named Cooltown. Lately he has written a couple of interesting posts concerning augmented reality, and in this one he discusses the challenges of designing a good and effective AR application for a mobile phone.
The idea of a magic lens is visually intuitive and emotionally evocative, and there is understandable excitement surrounding the rollout of commercial AR applications. These apps are really cool looking, and they invoke familiar visual tropes from video games, sci-fi movies, and comics. We know what Terminator vision is, we’re experienced with flight sim HUDs, and we know how a speech balloon works. These are common, everyday forms of magical design fiction that we take for granted in popular culture.

And that’s going to be the biggest challenge for this kind of mobile augmented reality; we already know what a magic lens does, and our expectations are set impossibly high.

Proposal: Augmented Reality Scale
Thomas Carpenter of "The Future Digital Life" propose in this article a metric that enables us to compare AR applications and measure the intensity in which they augment our reality. Although a similar idea was brought up a few months ago by the guys at SPRXMobile (creators of Layar), Carpenter's take is easier to understand and implement.
The RIM scale will be composed of two axis: Perceived Reality (PR) and Reality Recognition (RR). I chose two axis because AR exists through the mixing of reality and the virtual. First I’ll explain the two axis, then the interaction between them.
The Perceived Reality axis shows us how the graphics are indistinguishable from reality (on a scale from one to ten).
The Reality Recognition axis explains how completely computers understand the world (on a scale of one to ten).

Lumus from the Humus Land: the Future of Augmented Reality Displays
Ori Inbar interviews Zvi Lapidot, the CEO of Lumus, an Israeli company set to provide not-as-dorky looking glasses that can display digital video overlaid on top of reality. I actually tried one of their prototypes a couple of months ago and felt quite like a dork, but I guess they look cooler than those of main competitor Vuzix.
Ori: That’s impressive. And how did you enable AR tracking?
Zvi: By collaborating with AR specialists and Chinese partners we integrated a web camera and a compass (with 3DOF) into the prototype; and connected it to a phone with GPS. AR algorithms analyzed the video from the camera and overlaid graphics while tracking the real world. Several units of the prototype were even so

And finally, although technically this interview was held last week, I haven't found about it till yesterday. Here is Robert Rice preaching his sermon, and discussing many other interesting AR subjects with John C. Havens on BlogTalkRadio. You may want to wait till your Monday's commute to listen to it, as it's quite long:

Follow Friday - Augmented Reality Favorites on Twitter

Augmented reality and Twitter. Both are currently hyped as game changers, regardless of their current impact on the world. We have covered in the past some AR applications that brought tweets to the real world (e.g. Twittaround, Cloud Mirror and Squidder's augmented T-shirts).

This time around, it's time to cover the augmented reality scene on Twitter, starting with some recommended accounts to follow. Please note that this list is far from comprehensive, so feel free to leave your favorite twitters in the comment sections. Moreover I'll try to to make this a reoccurring feature over here, so in the long run we'll have a pretty thorough directory of interesting augmented reality twitter accounts.

  • @Comogard - Ori Inbar's account, has the best signal to noise ratio, since it's dedicated to AR.
  • @RobertRice - Neogence's CEO and "AR philosopher". Though augmented reality is not the only topic Rice tweets about (lots of politics and some sports), he is one of the most interesting accounts you can follow, having an inspiring yet grounded vision of AR.
  • @twitt_ar - Danika is an intern at Metaio, and a valuable resource for AR related news.
  • @TishShute - Not only does Tish Shute interviews the industry's leaders over UgoTrade, she's also has an active AR twitter that is worth the follow.
  • @noazark - Follow Noah Zerkin if you are interested in some "Mad Scientist" perspective on augmented reality, as he single handedly builds an AR glove.
  • @iguchi - Takahito Iguchi is the CEO of Tonchidot, makers of Sekai Camera. Though most of his tweets are in Japanese he is very tuned to augmented reality and mobile innovation and features some interesting links.
  • @augmented - That's me! (at least my Twitter account that is dedicated to AR). I regularly post there links to interesting articles and videos that I find and don't have the time to cover on this blog.
Next time, mobile augmented reality on twitter, till then, have a pleasent weekend!

geoPaste - AR Publishing for Everybody

Last year's Android Developer Challenge brought us such augmented reality applications as Wikitude and Enkin (which, until I'm proven wrong, is the first AR vaporware).
This time around, we are likely to see a surge in the number of AR applications participating in the challenge. An early bird, geoPaste, is coming to us all the way from Australia.

As can be seen in the video above, geoPaste lets you annotate reality right through your mobile phone, by sketching little pictures (or loading previously created images). Developer Gary Silva is concentrating at the moment on winning the challenge, but he has a grand vision for his app, "to make AR publishing available to everybody".

After ADC1 I had also seen a Wikitude demo and saw their slant towards providing AR content for consumers, like Enkin ( and which Layar now continues ). From there I thought that AR publishing could be put directly into the hands of end users and was inspired to start working on geoPaste to try to realize that vision. My original thoughts were along the lines of digital graffiti, legal and harmless but at the same time indelible, hence my drawings metaphor.

Good luck on the challenge!
More details, over here.