Augmented reality on iPhone delayed, but hardly prevented

Recently there’s been an onrush of news and Web searches for augmented reality (AR), for the fist time surpassing interest in its cousin, virtual reality. Think Artificial’s article on a prototype AR toolkit for the iPhone saw a 224% visitor increase and was cited in a CNET News article.

Google trend for augmented reality search in July 2009 - searches are surging
[NOTE: Above is a snapshot for July '08 to July '09;
See current 12 month trend]

Several AR apps hit the market and the now-famed Dutch augmented reality Web (and browser) caught more media attention than anyone expected. But augmented reality is barred from the optimal mobile device: the iPhone’s own development suite doesn’t allow access to vital components.
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Layar’s Augmented Reality Web for mobiles: finally layered information

Finally. An augmented reality application of superb execution. Layar is a Google Android OS application and an iPhone 3G S version on its way. Publicly announced on June 14th by Dutch company SPRXMobile. Many AR apps have hit the scene since Wikitude AR Travel Guide first appeared in November 2008—but Layar ups the stakes by being able to hide and show different types of information.
Layar application running a real-estate guide on an Android/HTC mobile phone

Useful augmented reality tool shipped by US Postal Service

Virtual Box Simulator showing a 3D virtual box around an item to be shipped

The US Postal Service has begun using a pretty neat online augmented reality (AR) tool. Developed by AKQA/DC, the Virtual Box Simulator is a marker-based AR applet that enables you to use a webcam to find a box size and shape that fits a shipment item.

The AlloSphere: Visualizing data inside a gigantic metallic sphere

Stand inside the AlloSphere—a giant metallic sphere that displays real live images of scientific data. In the video below JoAnn Kuchera-Morin, creator of the sphere, demos a flythrough his colleagues brain. Simply awesome. See video below.

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Augmented reality games, but what’s reality doing there?

Kweekies is a new augmented reality game that’s tuned to hit iPhones, Nokia Smartphones and Windows Mobile sometime this summer.

Created by int13 the game is marker based (meaning that the software uses pattern on a paper to know how the world is oriented) and features some cute cuddly Pokémon-styled creatures that you train and control (to fight). See the embedded videos below.

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Augmenting reality to ignore reality

Love of the AR concept leaves me blind to shortcomings, but my girlfriend stayed vigilant and posed an observation: How does AR enhance this particular game? And she’s spot on.

Other than providing a flat surface, the real, physical environment plays no part at all in Kweekies’ gameplay. Making that surface virtual would provide more or less the same experience and remove the need to lug around a fragile piece of paper with inkblots on it (can it even be folded without producing errors?). But it does look cool, I’ll give it that. The portal concept and design is nice even though it looks like it’s just bling. Maybe Valve could do something functional there.

Is augmented reality in virtual reality’s footsteps?

This does beg the question whether primitive AR implementations will cause people to write them off as ‘cool… but pointless‘, thereby slowing down AR development. After all, that happened to virtual reality in the 1990′s: creating viable consumer products was impossible but we still made some primitive demos that spread hype like a nuclear shockwave. Time passed. The only things that remained exciting were machines with sky-high pricetags that even game arcades could hardly afford. Public demand decreased and VR R&D crawled out of sight and into the shadowy corners of labs, hospitals, military bases. By the time we had everything to make killer consumer products (ca. 2005)—people had lost all interest.

But maybe the masses will love all AR applications regardless? They’re cool, there will be others like Wikitude that’ll do practical stuff. One of the most popular iPhone games is a ‘yo momma’ joke generator. So who knows?

[Kweekies via VR Geek Blog]

Wikitude AR – Augmented reality on Google Android

It’s been a while since the last post and I’m afraid it’s going to be like that for some time, mainly due to business, school and of course our dreaded economic uncertainties. It’s rare that I simply sit down and post, I usually mull over things for a few days and read up on the subject. But between the upcoming US elections and Iceland’s economic canary-in-the-mine situation, there hasn’t been much left to fuel my writing. So for now we’ll have to settle for slim posts.

Now, the Wikitude AR Travel Guide, created by Mobilizy, is an augmented reality application for the G1/Google Android. Judging from the video demonstration, the graphical overlay is quite a few notches smoother than Enkin.

According to Mobilizy’s website Wikitude should already available—but I didn’t find it in the Android Market, and the few 3rd party reviewers I looked at didn’t showcase the AR function. Perhaps there are two versions? In any case, reality is inching closer to augmentation.

Sony moves to augment reality with EyePet

Sony EyePet
Sony’s planning on making a splash in the augmented reality world. At the Games Conference in Liepzig, Germany they showcased the EyePet, a game set to hit the stores in late 2009, which uses the PlayStation Eye camera to allow users to interact with a small monkey-like-thing onscreen (set to explode from cuteness). The system also enables you to draw items on real paper which then pop out of it and turn into 3D objects for the monkey to interact with. In the promotional video, embedded below, they show a sketch of a car turning into a 3D vehicle controllable with a PS joystick.

Augmented reality app running on iPhone

With the the oncoming flood of powerful devices such as the iPhone, it’s almost certain that we’re about to make the leap into an augmented reality. I’ve predicted we’ll have common-place AR apps in early 2009. My guess is that Google will introduce a Maps-based application; possibly one that displays landmark-labels.

Look into the all-seeing eye.UPDATE, 2009: I was right that a public consumer AR Maps application would debut around early 2009: the Wikitude AR Travel App displays hovering labels over buildings and landmarks when you point your phone at them. I was almost right about Google’s part; it runs on Google Android phones—but was created by independent developers.

Here’s a video giving us a taste of what’s possible—an iPhone app capable of displaying 10 frames per second in live-video realtime tracking. It was made using version 4.4 of the ARToolkit, created by ARToolworks.

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Gizmodo mentions that this won’t be found in the Appstore anytime soon, and quotes the creators:

It’s running slowly, but once Apple releases a video [API for the iPhone] SDK, performance should get to 20-30 frames/second. We’ve all seen the awesome 3D games that can run on the iPhone, so fast AR applications will also be possible in the future, with all that multi-touch goodness thrown in as well.

I’m thinking there must be someone already brewing AR apps of some sort. Evernote is close, letting you take a picture of text (e.g. a poster or DVD cover, etc.) and making the text searchable. Location-based social applications are also on a roll, displaying people in your area and what they’re up to.

With the iPhone’s 3G version there’s nothing that stands in the way; there’s bandwidth, GPS location and then the phone’s accelerometer. These combined could be used to make a label-application like I mentioned above: The accelerometer could track which way you’re facing and when you turn, the GPS where you are and the 3G could provide a fast and live connection to something like Google’s maps.

I doubt AR is an area that Apple hasn’t considered conquering. Even though it currently seems they’d rather want to use the phone’s accelerometer to make lightsaber sounds.

Mobile Second Life Client to Run on iPhones via Wi-Fi

Following up on my writings about a Second Life Client for mobile phones being developed by Vollee — a company specializing in bringing full-blown PC games to mobile phones by using the company’s machines for heavy processing and then streaming the result to handsets.

I exchanged emails with Julian Corbett, head of Business Development at Vollee, who revealed that the Mobile Second Life Client (SL) would not be limited to 3G but that Wi-Fi connectivity would also be enabled. This begged three additional questions which were courteously answered by Corbett.

In short, the following was clarified:

  • iPhone’s will be supported by Vollee.
  • The Mobile SL client will be Wi-Fi enabled in addition to 3G.
  • The Client seen in the video (see last post) is a Java implementation.

The First Brain-Computer Interface for Mainstream Consumers [Neural Interface]

Have you ever wanted to control your computer with your mind? I have. And come next December maybe we will. It’s been almost a year since I first talked about Emotiv Systems and the company’s EPOC headset. They’ve stayed somewhat secretive since then (crypticness and stealth that also extended to my email correspondence with them). But last February 19th they came out of the cave at the GDC’08 conference with a brand new bone, the latest version of their consumer based brain-computer interface that is quite frankly geeking me out. The headset will be marketed for the game industry and is expected to go for $299. Read on for what to expect. The features are, well, pretty unbelievable.

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