Augmented Reality : The Next Big Movement


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If you haven’t yet heard about augmented reality or seen it in action, now’s the time. Augmented reality is a new way of seeing the world in a very rich experience. In short, it’s just really cool.

What is Augmented Reality (or AR)?
Per Wikipedia:

…a field of computer research which deals with the combination of real-world and computer-generated data (virtual reality), where computer graphics objects are blended into real footage in real time.

One really cool, and now increasingly popular, way to experience AR is with printed markers, special software to recognize the markers, and a decent web cam. The marker is a unique shape, often black on white. The software is programmed to recognize the marker in a live video stream and replace it with something else. Generally, the replacement will be an animated 3D image.

A demo of GE’s SmartGrid Augmented Reality site:

Another version of the same demo:

The demos above represent about a minute of preparation to email the marker image link to myself and retrieve it on my phone. You don’t need an iPhone to do this, either. You could use any phone or device that can display the image. For even better results, print the marker image out on paper.

Uses in gaming
ARhrrrr is an augmented reality shooter for mobile camera-phones, created at Georgia Tech Augmented Environments Lab and the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD-Atlanta). In the video they produced below, you can see a great example of how augmented reality programming is used for a more immersive gaming experience. I love the use of skittles as additional markers. It goes to show that anything can be a marker if you get creative.

Augmenting education
Imagine you’re a kid in grade school and your teacher hands you a display headset and a book. When you view the book through the display, the pages come to full 3D life, displaying, for example, an animated 3D volcano. You don’t have to imagine it. It’s in the video below from Hit Lab.

Anything that makes learning more fun for kids while also providing them with more information gets an A in my book.

Practical commercial uses
The practical uses in the commercial arena are virtually endless. Most could involve the use of AR to let a client see a product inside and out like Toyota has done here:

Additionally, we’re starting to see iPhone apps being built to use the phone’s camera, GPS, and compass to bring you real time information about your surroundings on top of a live video.

AR is a winning concept with very little in the way of limitations or hurdles. It’s moving fast this year and even just in the last 45 days or so. There’s so much that will come from it and I can’t wait. I haven’t felt this excited about advancing tech since the cable modem.

3D Dragon Illusion


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I thought this was a nice mix of tech and art. Watch the dragon’s view follow the camera. Nice trick.