Envisioning Life in 2020

Be sure to check out Frog Design's vision of living in 2020, for a dose of augmented reality spectacles

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Hitchcock's Rear Window Reimagined in Augmented Reality

Rear Window is the thesis project of artists Mike Lawrie and Jon Friis for the New Media program of the School of Image Arts at Ryerson University (Canada). It's a re-imagining of the classic Hitchcock film where viewers will take the part of the film's protagonist.

Rear Window – Documentation from Copp_Studio on Vimeo.

The installation takes the form of a telescope, installed near a window in the gallery space. Participants are invited to take the role of Jeff in the film, observing and scrutinizing the neighbours and neighbourhood of the gallery. However, the image through the telescope does not wholly coincide with what is seen by the naked eye. Instead, utilizing augmented reality techniques, portions of the image are replaced. Specifically, windows of neighbouring buildings become silver screens, presenting participants with footage from Hollywood films which utilize the Rear Window cliché.

Now, I'm too much a techie to understand their motivation in creating such an installation, but I do like the idea. Read more about it on Mike Lawrie's site.

Weekly Linkfest

This week saw the realization of two conferences dedicated to augmented reality - the AR Conference and the European AR Business Conference. Sadly, no videos from the two are currently available online. But here several other things that are available online:
Quote of the week is taken from Chris Grayson well thought reply to my sensationalist post asking whether augmented reality has already peaked (follow link for full reply):
Think what a single hype cycle for "video" would look like. Then consider TV, online video, outdoor billboards, mobile phone displays, that is to say -- moving images are a very big idea. Different implementations are adopted in different ways at different rates… AR is also a very big idea that has many manifestations.

And this week's video is a commercial to augmented reality head up display called the "Stark HUD". Unfortunately you will not be able them anytime soon, since they are part of an elaborated campaign promoting the release of "Iron Man 2", which also includes a web application that lets you try on iron man's mask.

that's it for now, have a great week!

The Future of AR Browsers

Swiss augmented reality company kooaba and ETH Zurich have joined forces to create a rather impressive augmented reality browser prototype, which I'll refer to as the Koo (since it lacks any official name). Unlike existing browsers out there, the Koo doesn't rely on GPS and compass readings to decide what's in front of it, but rather on image recognition techniques.

The object (be it a book or a whole building) is identified on kooaba's servers and is tracked live on the phone itself. And it doesn't require a custom made mobile phone to work, any modern phone that allows access to its live video stream should suffice (literally, the Nexus One). The result looks amazing, though we should be careful to judge according to a demo video:

Head over to kooaba's site to read more about the Koo and to see another video of it in work.

Has Augmented Reality Peaked?

Sorry for the attention grabbing title, but remember how we all celebrated when augmented reality passed virtual reality on Google trends, showing an exponential growth rate?

Well, it sure looked promising back last September, but since then, the interest in AR has stopped increasing, at least when measured is search volumes and news references

The current trend is even more obvious when compare with Foursquare (in red in the graph below), which really does show exponential growth:

so, what's going on? there are a couple of possible explanations:
(a) Augmented reality has peaked. I can't really believe that's the case.
(b) Google trends was never an adequate tool to measure the popularity of augmented reality. Other measures, such as investments, acquisitions and actual downloads are much better indicators. All of those show positive trends.
(c) We have entered a new, uncharted area in Gartner's hype cycle, one that I call the Plateau of immature technology. Simply put, the iPhone is not the optimal AR device, and it's not even the best currently out there. However, most of us limit ourselves to developing AR applications on the iPhone (or even worse, in Flash), and thus the solution space is really limited. We see the same ideas rehashed time after time (though, some pleasant surprises do happen), and people loose interest. The trend line seems pretty constant (for now) because there are still some users who discover AR for the first time.

If you'll ask me, augmented reality is not dying, but stalling, waiting for a breakthrough either technological or conceptual that will bring new type of applications to the market (much like Foursquare was for location based services). Would it come for one of the incumbents companies, a giant like Google, or maybe a stealthy startup? only time will tell.

Augmented Reality Flash Mob

If you happen to be in Amsterdam this Saturday (either because you live there or can't get back home because your flight is canceled), you may want to check out the first AR flash mob. It turns out that in an augmented flash mob, the mob consists of virtual characters bounded to markers:

Sander Veenhof who is behind this interesting event hopes that tourists will opt to take pictures with the virtual characters rather then with the usual "live sculptures". I personally doubt it, but if you want to take part in this experiment, the precise location and timing can be found here.

Weekly Linkfest

For me, this week's highlight was seeing Natal demoed live (cool!) and some more advanced features Microsoft is pushing into Photosynth (even cooler!).
Here some other interesting things that happened this week:
This post was slightly delayed because I couldn't find any appropriate video to put here. So here's an old one that I find pretty cool and never have posted over here before. I thought of dedicating a whole post for it, but since it's been lying in my inbox since January, it will have to do with being the weekly video. From the University of Adelaide, magic:

Have a good week and stay away from erupting volcanoes!

Weekly Linkfest

I know you've been waiting for it, here's this week's linkfest:
Weekly quote is from that pocket-lint article mentioned above. It's so true, I had to bring it here:
Just when it looks as if it might take off, we may never hear from AR again. Why? Because consumers won’t be wanting, buying or using a service called “AR”. AR will go the way of AI. It'll be taken for granted and never referred to, just part and parcel of most every valuable application used.
And this week's video, is nothing else but an augmented version of Hello Kitty, which you can play with somewhere over here (via Development Memo for Ourselves)

Hopefully I'm going to see a live demo of Project Natal this week, wish me luck!

Augmented with the iPhone as Shotgun

If you haven't seen it yet, here's probably the best AR application for the iPhone you're going to see today:

It's called Augmented Driving and it's by a company named imaGinyze. You probably ask yourself how can it work with the iPhone having no support for video analysis. The solution imaGinyze came up with was taking six to twelve pictures a second.

Unfortunately, it has many restrictions (see their Q&A section), and it's not even on the appstore. Nevertheless, it's very cool, and if they could figure out how to use an iPhone to help me with parallel parking, I'll be their first customer.

More details at Thomas who broke the news yesterday.

Preaching to the Augmented Choir

Yet another use of the BBC big screens for augmenting reality. This time it's a project by a group of artists named "The Sancho Plan" who deployed the display in Bristol late last March. I don't have any more details, but it seems the participants had a lot of fun:

Big Screen Augmented Reality from The Sancho Plan on Vimeo.

Weekly Linkfest

It will be a challenge cramming all of this week's links into seven bullet points and a video, but I'll try my best:
This weeks video shows the work coming from the University of Ulster. At first, those may look like very simple games - and they are, for a very good reason. Intended to aid in upper-limb stroke rehabilitation, these let patients practice some of the finer movements such as reach, grasp, manipulation and release of objects. You can read more about it here.

Have a grand week!

Fool Your Friends with Augmentizer

Augmentizer, a free app for the iPhone, has the most amazing image recogn=ition algorithm. It can identify places, people, food and random object with little to no latency.

Alas, the algorithm works only on April fools day, since it requires the iPhone owner to press on one of six hidden buttons for it to work.