Augmented Reality

With almost daily announcements about new Augmented Reality applications, products, services, companies, and tools, the pace of innovation in augmented reality is torrid.

The potential of Augmented Reality has now captured the imagination of the information technology world. The popularity surrounding this technology is similar to the excitement over virtual reality during the 1990’s and 3D online communities, during this past decade. Unfortunately, in the mind of consumers, neither of these technologies lived up to the expectations. Virtual reality and 3D online communities were prematurely dismissed as failures by many. Consumer-level Virtual Reality was  really hard for implementation. Even so, some sensed that the technology was not bringing about the revolution that had been promised . Hype cycle –  The Trough of Disillusionment on this technology is deep and long. Today Virtual Reality technology is still in its infancy, and there are damaging flaws. Graphics, no matter how impressive, are not lifelike. Time lags are far too long. The equipment is still far too expensive for social use. But each and every one of these drawbacks is the subject of intense research and work.

In 2008-9, Augmented Reality technology became vogue. Though it has been under development for over couple of decades, in the past year, it was prominently featured in major advertisements campaigns.  Concurrently, Layar, Wikitude, and a number of augmented reality applications are released for mobile phones.

Augmented reality denotes live direct or an indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics, or GPS data. It is related to a more general concept called mediated reality, in which a view of reality is modified by a computer. As a result, the technology functions by enhancing one’s current perception of reality. By contrast, virtual reality replaces the real world with a simulated one.

While the capability to deliver augmented reality experiences has been around for decades, it is only very recently that those experiences have become easy and portable. Advances in mobile devices as well as in the different technologies that combine the real world with virtual information have led to augmented reality applications as any other application on a laptop or a smart phones.

New uses for augmented reality are being explored and new experiments undertaken now since it is easy to do so. Emerging augmented reality tools to date have been mainly designed for marketing, social purposes, amusement, or location-based information, but new tools continue to appear as the technology becomes more popular. Augmented reality has become simple, and is now poised to enter the mainstream in the consumer sector.

Wireless mobile devices are increasingly driving this technology into the mobile space where the applications offer a great deal of promise. Initially,augmented reality required unwieldy headsets and kept users largely tethered to their desktop computers. The camera and screen embedded in smart phones and other mobile devices now serve as the means to combine real world data with virtual data; using GPS capability, image recognition, and  compass. Augmented reality applications can define where the mobile’s camera is pointing and overlay relevant information at appropriate points on the screen. The improvement in technology allows more streamlined approaches and wider user adoption.

augmented-reality

Augmented Reality

Market projections for augmented reality on mobile devices predict revenues of $2 million in 2010, rising to several hundred million by 2014 ($350 million, according to ABI Research; Juniper Research’s projections are even higher). Augmented reality is poised to enter the mainstream in the consumer sector, and the social, gaming, and location-based applications that are emerging indicates a strong potential for educational applications in the next five years. Currently, many-augmented reality efforts are focused on entertainment and marketing, but these will spill into other areas as the technology matures and becomes even more simplified. Augmented Reality is pervasive  that is just now becoming a consumer reality. Now the focus is on consumer-focused practical applications such as this ING Google Android application. It not only helps to find the nearest ATM, it shows you visually how to get there, even showing where you need to take the first steps in the right direction.

Usage of a augmented reality to promote products via interactive augmented reality applications is becoming common  now.  example Nissan(2008 LAAuto Show),Best buy (2009) and others used webcam based augmented reality to connect 3D models with printed materials. There are numerous examples of connecting mobile augmented reality to outdoor advertisements.

Today, with almost daily announcements about new Augmented Reality applications, products, services, companies, and tools, the pace of innovation in augmented reality is torrid. Augmented Reality is at the peak of inflated expectations, which has both success stories with few failures. For the last five years, the hype and promise for augmented reality — a hybrid of virtual and actual reality — to spread into virtually every aspect of our daily lives has only grown. According to the definition by Paul Milgram and Fumio Kishino, it does still exist on a continuum of augmentation, which they describe as a line existing between the real world and a virtual environment. In addition to the spate of mobile applications—including Augmented ID, Wikitude, Layar, Nearest Tube, and the TwittARound—augmented reality is increasingly visible in popular cross-media experiences.

However, we should expect this for any new, immature technology with such potential for widespread impact and adoption, augmented reality is clearly in the spotlight. Augmented reality is one of the most successful ambassadors for ubiquitous computing to date.

This phenomenon is implemented in smart-phone applications like Layar and Wikitude, which make the intangible and conceptually challenging phenomenon easily perceptible. They make it possible to experience the new world of ubiquitous computing by reifying the digital layer that permeates our inside-out world.

The UX community needs to find ways to participate in and shape this design probe into the experience. To UX designers , this blizzard of augmented reality products offers a collection of prototypes that can help us understand and refine the basic interaction models and experience concepts that will underlay future generations. UX professionals can offer an essential perspective—as well as substantial history and a critical set of methods and skills—for the creation of delightful, useful, and humane augmented experiences, expanding their relevance and value.

While researcher Tom Caudell coined the term-augmented reality in 1992, the functional and experiential concept originated with the head-up instrument displays and targeting devices. Airplane manufacturers created for military pilots shortly after World War II. Since the 1970s and 1980s, many distinct, but complementary domains of academic computing research and commercial technological development have contributed to the evolution of augmented reality. In the 1990s, the first augmented reality products addressed the needs of such specialties as medicine and engineering.

The convergence of mobile computing and wearable computing with augmented reality is naturally of great interest to interaction designers. Throughout augmented reality’s evolution, continuous technology advancement has rapidly changed the range of possible interaction models and experience concepts.

As recently as 2003, the hardware for wearable augmented reality experiences—was distressingly cumbersome, and the social, physical, and cognitive limitations it placed on interactions were quite stringent. Contrast the experience of wearing the heavy and unappealing equipment with that of wearing the powerful video eyewear  available today, just five years later from Vuzix , the rate of improvement  is evident. The Tac-Eye Monocular Display System ST from  Vuzix Corporation is a see-through augmented reality (AR) enabled monocular Video Eyewear that is expected to be used in a variety of defense, security and industrial applications where rugged hands free video displays are needed. Building from Vuzix’ award winning technology in augmented reality -enabled video eyewear, the new display will enable users to view the real world scene while also viewing relevant computer generated information, graphics and alerts.

Much of augmented reality’s unique character comes from its combination of reified elements—usually bits of context that serve as the augmentation—with a traditional focus such as an object, place, person, or photo. Today’s augmented interactions often represent contextual elements within the augmented experience—for example, using icons to indicate direction and the distance to nearby points of interest—rather than being directly present—to continue the same example, by showing live video of points of interest. The presence of these representative reifications mixed in with reality is what makes augmented reality inside out. Designers should bear in mind that mixed reality is not natural. Design always shapes a mixed-reality experience in some way. Mixed Reality is a constructed experience. Designers can better define and understand the possible combinations of real and virtual elements in user experiences within the context of Paul Milgram’s Virtuality Continuum.

As this model shows, augmented reality and augmented virtuality are forms of Mixed Reality, which according to Paul Milgram and Fumio Kishino, blends the extreme points of fully real and fully virtual to some degree. Augmented-reality experiences supplement the real world with the virtual world by connecting people to informational elements that are presented, but not otherwise accessible. Augmented virtuality refers to predominantly virtual spaces that dynamically integrate physical elements such as objects or people into the virtual world, letting users interact with them in real-time.

For designers, the most important thing to note about the Virtuality Continuum is the absence of any clear boundary between the real environment and the augmented reality. .

The User Experience of Augmented Reality

In its current experimental form, augmented reality inhabits the interzone between the defined cultural categories of technology, art, commerce, utility, science, play, and entertainment. In time, this will change, as augmented reality moves from prototypes to finished concepts and reaches maturity in one or more of these cultural categories.

While we wait for cultural processes to sort out the long-term place of augmented reality, reviewing some impressions of current Augmented Reality efforts is a good way to learn from the in-progress design probe.

Two potential business applications for new Augmented Reality technologies are marketing and advertising.

Several augmented reality apps have already been released for cell phones with positioning sensors. For example, PresseLite’s Metro Paris app and Acrossair’s Nearest Tube both provide iPhone users with augmented directions to nearby subway stops. Augmented Reality apps are also available for phones powered by Google’s Android platform. Layar, developed by SPRXmobile, based in the Netherlands, overlays information from Twitter, Flickr, and Wikipedia on real-world locations, while Wikitude, from Austria-based Mobilizy, displays tourist information collected from Wikipedia.

Augment ID is an application that lets users point a smart phone at a stranger and immediately learns about them premiered last Tuesday at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. Developed by The Astonishing Tribe (TAT), a Swedish mobile software and design firm, the prototype software combines computer vision, cloud computing, facial recognition, social networking, and augmented reality.

Mobilizy released a new language for Augmented Reality called Augmented Reality Mark-up Language (ARML). With ARML, Mobilizy hopes to make it easier for programmers to create location-based content for Augmented Reality applications. The company envisions ARML as equivalent to HTML for the Web, and emphasizes the importance of open content and standardization for Augmented Reality to take off. it wants to open those standards to be available for developer communities that can create innovative applications around this augmented experience.

However, many challenges remain. For instance, the positioning technology currently available in cell phones falls short for sophisticated augmented reality applications. The GPSs built into smart phones were not designed for augmented reality, says panelist Steven Feiner, a professor of computer science at Columbia University. They were designed for simpler applications.

AR can guide people through complex tasks.

According to Fiener “Instead of looking at a separate manual while disassembling a PC, imagine putting on lightweight eyewear containing a see-through display that graphically highlights the screws in the order you need to remove them,”

Feiner has been developing experimental AR maintenance applications for 20 years. This involves delivering information about a system, quickly and naturally, as workers move around a workpiece. He does this by tracking the position and orientation of their eyewear, then aligning information with their perspective.

In recent studies with U.S. Marines at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Feiner’s lab found that AR helped professional mechanics find the location of parts they needed to repair faster than using manuals. “With manuals, the documentation is separate from the task. Workers are always going back and forth. AR keeps them focused on the work by integrating the documentation with the task,” Feiner explained.

Feiner is also working on better ways to display AR information for people interacting with their surroundings. He has come a long way since 1996, when his lab created the world’s first outdoor mobile AR system. Before the era of smart phones, ubiquitous GPS, and Wi-Fi, it consisted of head-worn and hand-held displays – plus a 45-pound backpack stuffed with electronics.

The success of augmented reality is tied to creating usable, useful, fun, or entertaining applications and experiences. Novelty and gimmicks will wear off soon, but fun experiences that take advantage of the unique nature of the technology will earn augmented reality a place as a viable and lasting approach to as a human-computer interface.

When covering Augmented Reality, a number of technology pundits have assumed that within the next few years, we can expect head mounted displays or augmented reality glasses to become the best display for Augmented Reality applications. Without a doubt, it would be groundbreaking if a high quality augmented reality display could be built into the form factor of sunglasses. Unfortunately, a lightweight, wide field of view, daylight readable, head mounted display (HMD) at mass market prices is not something we can expect to see in the next five years. Head mounted displays sold commercially since 1992, and there were great strides over the years in HMD resolution, brightness, and power usage.

Fakespace Labs Wide 5: Easily, the most immersive head mounted display; it can be modified for video see through augmented reality applications.

The Advanced Helmet Mounted Display:  Optical Research Associates, a firm that helped fix the Hubble telescope, designed the optics. It has an amazing field of view, its optical see through, and has great resolution. It is also very large and is intended for helmet mounting.

eMagin Z800 3Dvisor: It has a relatively small form factor, it is very affordable, uses OLED’s, and it can be adapted for video see through augmented reality applications. The field of view is limited.

No one has yet delivered a wide field of view display in a small package that approaches the footprint of sunglasses as the public expects. With significant engineering investments, innovative approaches from companies such as Lumus, ORA, and Digilens may show promise in solving this problem. In addition to optics issues, eyestrain and other head mounted display ergonomics problems must be dealt with.

There will be no single augmented reality display. Instead, the type of display used for augmented reality will be determined by the needs of the application. Current and future developers will have a range of options including smart phone screens, handheld tablets, desktop monitors, micro projectors, and augmented reality glasses.

There are a number of mobile augmented reality applications, namely Layar, Wikitude, and the Yelp Monocle, which use GPS and compass data to overlay graphic information on a live video view of the real world. Though these applications are novel and interesting, the data provided by a mobile device’s GPS and compass is simply not precise enough to deliver a quality Augmented Reality user experience. Information overlays usually appear to wobble or bounce around the video view. Consumers will rarely use these applications after the novelty factor wears off. At best, these applications provide an alternative viewing mode for data that should be first presented on a 2D map or in a list. Here is a well-written piece from New Scientist commenting on the current state of mobile augmented reality applications.

The best approach to Augmented Reality tracking and registration involves hybrid tracking and sensor fusion techniques, which use computer vision technology in conjunction with GPS and compass data.

Mobile augmented reality applications using a variety of sensor fusion techniques have been prototyped over the years, and we will see applications leveraging them on the market soon.

Layar’s mission is to transform augmented Reality into a true mass medium. Augmenting reality requires close study of a strange new Augmented Reality ecosystem: geo-location, registration, sensors, chipsets, operating systems, handheld devices, application, markers, social networking, and experience design. Augmented Reality business models include games, tourism, urban navigation, video, arts, and entertainment.

Augmented reality hardware platforms for today

Here are five augmented reality hardware platforms that developers can utilize today for creating augmented reality applications.

Webcams

In the past year, there has been an explosion of advertisement campaigns, which deliver webcam based Augmented Reality experiences through an internet site or a downloadable application. Most of these utilized the FLARToolkit.

      Augmented Reality Interactive Album Cover

      Augmented Reality Concert

      Augmented Reality Fashion Advertisement

      Augmented Reality Business Card

      Kiosks, Digital Signage, Window Displays

Webcam Augmented Reality applications can be packaged as interactive kiosks, digital signs, or window displays installed in retail locations as seen in this excellent example from Lego and this one promoting the movie Coraline.

3G Smartphones

3G smartphones have enormous potential for Augmented Reality applications. Phones from manufacturers including Apple, HTC, and Nokia are equipped with a camera, GPS, compass, accelerometers, and 3D graphics capabilities. These devices have enormous potential for Augmented Reality applications. Unfortunately, developers are currently more limited by the restrictions of manufacturer API’s than by the hardware itself. For example, developers cannot currently release iPhone applications, which directly perform vision based tracking on the camera’s video stream. Computer vision based Augmented Reality applications that are currently in the app store rely on analyzing still frames which limits the augmented reality experience. In 2010, these frustrating API barriers will be overcome, and we can see vision based Augmented Reality applications proliferate on mobile devices.

Game Consoles

Augmented reality first came to game consoles when Dr. Richard Marks invented the Eye Toy for the Playstation 2. More recently, we have seen the release of Augmented Reality applications for the Playstation 3 (PS3) with the Eye of Judgment and the Eyepet.  In 2010, Sony is expected to debut their motion controller, which will further extend the PS3′s Augmented Reality capabilities. Here is an article where Richard Marks answers questions about the motion controller along with a video showing a precursor running on the Playstation 2.

Microsoft’s heavily publicized Project Natal should provide a set of tools for authoring augmented reality experiences for the Xbox 360. Developers will be able to embrace Augmented Reality and ingeniously incorporate it into their game designs.

Tablets

Researchers have extensively used tablets to prototype Augmented Reality applications proving the viability of the tablet as an Augmented Reality platform. Most of these demos were created using the last generation of tablets from HP and Toshiba.  Those these devices provided great functionality, they were not widely accepted by consumers.  Here is a 2004 AUGUMENTED REALITY paper from George Klein et. al. which utilized the HP TC1000 tablet.  With its sleek design and form factor, Apple’s forthcoming tablet may have greater success. Apple’s tablet will reportedly be equipped with a camera, which could make it another excellent Augmented Reality platform. The process of porting an iPhone application to the Apple tablet is expected to be a straightforward process, which could encourage the release of Augmented Reality applications with versions for both devices.

Focus on Utility and Fun, not Novelty

After the “wow factor” wears off, there is a risk that consumers may begin to dismiss augmented reality as a gimmick rather than a technology that provides real value. Developers can prevent this situation from happening by using Augmented Reality to design applications that focus on utility and fun rather than the novelty of seeing an object pop out of a marker.

A great example of a useful Augmented Reality tool is the US Postal Service’s box measurement application. This application turns a cereal box into an interactive game. It is a fun gaming experience, which simultaneously promotes a new film.

Both of these applications provide unique value helping consumers understand that Augmented Reality is a technology that is useful beyond just being an attention-grabbing feature.

For those who have been a part of the Augmented Reality community since its infancy and those who are just entering the field, these are very exciting times. After decades of research, mass-market Augmented Reality applications are finally viable and can be delivered on a variety of platforms. If developers, investors, analysts, and consumers can develop a real understanding of what Augmented Reality can and cannot do, the future of Augmented Reality Technology is vivid, and evolution as an innovative and inspiring medium for creativity, communication, and e commerce.

Still, for all of AR’s promise, its future success is by no means a slam-dunk. Some of the early AR apps on smartphones are clumsy to use and unnatural. Eyewear for consumer use has not been perfected. “The optics and display trickery to get the thing right — that’s not easy,” says Microsoft’s Lanier.

Voted Best Augmented Reality Browser in 2010 by the readers of Augmented Planet, Wikitude World Browser is a fun, innovative, and informative Augmented Reality platform allowing you to discover what is around you in a completely new way. By using the camera, simply hold up your Smartphone and explore your surroundings. Wikitude will overlay the camera’s display and the objects you look at with additional interactive content and information – cool!

Forrester Research analyst Thomas Husson also says mobile AR is not yet delivering on its promise. However, “in the years to come, this will be disruptive technology that changes the way consumers interact with their environment.

Augmented reality has strong potential to provide both powerful contextual, in situ learning experiences and serendipitous exploration and discovery of the connected nature of information in the real world. Mechanics in the military and at companies like Boeing already use AR goggles while they work on vehicles; the goggles demonstrate each step in a repair, identify the tools needed, and include textual instructions as well. This kind of augmented experience especially lends itself to training for specific tasks.

The next stage in the evolution of AR is taking shape in the lab of Babak Parviz, an associate professor of bio-nanotechnology at Seattle’s University of Washington. Parviz has made a contact lens etched with a tiny, transparent electronic circuit that contains a single LED. Over the next several years he hopes to add hundreds of LEDs to the lens, allowing it to display text and images that would appear to hover in space at a readable distance in front of the eye. “With enough processing power, the lens could translate speech into text in real time and display it for deaf people,” says Parviz. The lens would be powered wirelessly by radio waves transmitted from a cell phone in your pocket.

Company Profiles

acrossair

acrossair is a new kind of company – a hybrid collective combining rockstar application and game developers with a corporate infrastructure to cover all those mundane things alike marketing, sales and finance. acrossair is working with companies to take advantage of the Apple iPhone platform for everything from fun games to enterprise applications. Our first application (delivering TV listings for TVGuide.co.uk) reached No.1 in the UK. Currently available for download on iTunes is a range of acrossair apps including Nearest Wiki, New York Nearest Subway, Nearest Places, London Nearest Tube and many more.

Acrossair have also developed an iPhone advertising platform which enables
publishers to commoditized their applications.

ARToolworks, Inc.

ARToolworks is the premier provider of tools for developing Augmented Reality (AR) experiences. Using ARToolworks’ software it is easy to create AR applications where virtual images are seamlessly overlaid on the real world.

. Forterra Systems Inc.

. Google Inc.

. int13

. Metaio GmbH

. Microvision, Inc.

. Mobilizy GmbH

. Nokia and Navteq

Neogence Enterprises

Ogmento

SPRXmobile

Sportvision, Inc.

Tonchidot Corporation

Total Immersion

Vision Systems International

Vuzix Corporation

Zugara, Inc.

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