Archive for the ‘ Augmented Reality ’ Category

Absolutely stunning!

Check out this video from the Onya awards at Webstock 2010.  Great to see such impressive use of technology by a New Zealand company.  The projection is onto the back of the town hall and incorporates the organ pipes to great effect.

Well worth watching the whole thing in full screen, but my favourite bit is at about 4 mins in.

Visuals and projection mapping are by The Darkroom and the sound is by Module.

While on the topic of The Onyas, the award for Best Mobile Application went to GeoVector’s World Surfer augmented reality app for the iPhone.  Well done GeoVector and Cactuslab (who developed the app)!


Zugara ZugSTAR

Zugara have just launched their ZugSTAR technology that looks very exciting.  Mostly concept stuff at this stage, although they have integrated the platform into their Webcam Social Shopper as a proof of concept.

Picture a web based video conferencing system similar to Skype*, but with the added functionality of being able to see one another’s “augmented” experience in real time.  With ZugSTAR, Augmented Reality becomes a technology that facilitates collaboration, and physical distance becomes less of a barrier.

The video above shows the potential of this technology.

So how does it apply to reverse logistics?  Well, off the top of my head I can see several applications, but you can probably think of many more (Feel free to add your suggestions in the comments):

  • Remote training of products that have yet to be released
  • Escalations and technical analysis where issues and resolutions can be developed and demonstrated
  • Packaging and freight spatial calculations
  • Remote diagnosis and support
  • Collaboration and planning
  • Remote sales pitches and presentations
  • Modelling and design of logistics infrastructure and facilities
  • Breakdown and assembly process instructions overlayed on the actual item (“remove this screw”, “apply glue here”)

These are just elements as they relate to one particular vertical market, but I see this concept having much more far reaching implications about the ways we work, learn, meet, and communicate (and play).   As these technologies develop I expect to see wide adoption.  Probably not within the next year, but maybe within 5 to 10.

Products like the iPad (when it gets cameras) and the Google tablet concept will make a perfect match with this sort of product.  Multi-touch, portability, location/attitude sensors, and mobile data are all very relevant.

What do you think?  Can you see a future that incorporates the sort of vision demonstrated in the video above… or do you consider this is a technology without a need?  Feel free to comment.

iPad it is!

Will Apple's new iPad be the new standard in mobile computing?

OK, so Apple have made their announcement and they’ve gone with the name iPad.  Quite a surprise considering my understanding was that the trademark of iPad belonged to another company in the US.

Zak was first to pick the name iPad… but I think MR (Mo) got the specs and the name nearly 100% right… although he got the price wrong.  Well done Mo… your prize is on its way.

About the iPad… I think it could be a major game changer… but I have some concerns.

1.  It doesn’t appear to have cameras.  It seems to me a product like this should be very suitable for high quality photography and video, and also for video calling.  Not much chance of doing that without cameras.

2.  The Apple processor.  Apple hasn’t made/designed its own processors for many years.  If the processor is flaky, the whole concept will collapse.

3.  It might be difficult to hold comfortably and safely.  A 10″ device is not the easiest thing to hold in one hand.  I’ll reserve judgement on this until I’ve actually tried picking one up and using it.

Here’s the official video of the iPad

… and here’s Steve Jobs doing the presentation:

Pure Hype or Next Big Thing?

Graphical representation of technologies involved in AR as per GeoVector

Howard Wen writes in Computerworld about the evolution of augmented reality to date and whether the reality will be as big as the hype predicts.

While AR appears to be more useful than virtual worlds (and therefore more likely to succeed), it remains to be seen how the technology will be developed and adopted in real-world use. In particular, those in the business world would like to know if, and when, their operations could somehow benefit from using AR.

This is critical for the success of AR.  Whilst everyone is excited by the possibilities of AR for social media and gaming, I think the real proof of the concept will be as businesses develop the technology to improve their operations.  We are some way from that stage in the evolution of the technology but there are promising signs.  Layar and Wikitude and others have opened up their platforms to allow businesses to present their own content.  AR is currently being used for marketing, navigation, and in vertical markets like real estate.  We’ve seen concepts for AR’s use in engineering and other applications, but usable systems have yet to emerge.

World Surfer, Wikitude World Browser and Yelp’s iPhone 3GS app are typical of today’s mobile AR apps. They let people use smartphones to search for information about nearby restaurants, businesses and landmarks. Users can contribute comments and reviews about such places, and those reviews will be available to others, who you can access them by clicking on links that appear over the images captured on their smartphones.

I think these apps prove that the technology is definitely more than hype.

The potential market for AR products leans toward mobile devices, but, as mentioned above, current smartphones have technological limitations that curb their ability to support AR software. For one thing, their batteries don’t hold a charge long enough; any app that makes heavy use of graphics, GPS technology and networking components uses a lot of juice. But the biggest problem is that the GPS technology used in smartphones needs to be improved.

I would add that compass interference is also an issue for accuracy.

As for overcoming the stigma that it’s nothing more than marketing hype, AR might succeed where virtual worlds faltered because it’s grounded in real life. Becker muses that AR could become accepted as a natural extension of our perception of, and interaction with, everyday surroundings.

“Humans are driven to augment our reality, and to augment our own capabilities. From the earliest cave paintings to modern-day urban graffiti, we overlay our world with expressions of our inner selves,” he says. “Architecture, street signs, billboards, fashions — these are all visual and functional augmentations of the physical world.”

When people starting using augmented reality without even thinking about the fact that they are using the technology, I think we can then say it’s not hype.  Of course, by then, the question of whether AR is hype or not will be irrelevant.

Guess the Apple Tablet [updated]

Is this what the Apple Tablet will look like?

Probably the most hotly anticipated new technology right now is the “Apple Tablet”.  The tech blogs and mainstream media are slathering with excitement about the next Apple game-changer.  Apple in its usual style have remained totally mum about the product so there are some wild ideas about the product and its features.

So I’ve decided to run a bit of a competition.  Who can best guess the features and specifications of the product (if it even exists)?

Use the comments to add your ideas.

What will it look like; what OS will it run; what will be its feature apps; what connectivity will it have; what type of display; what other feature do you think it will have; how will it be used?

And the big one… What will it be called?

The winner will be judged after the official launch (probably 27th January) by me and will get bragging rights for the next week.

[Update]  Check out Walt Mosspuppet’s review of the tablet… classic

Faster Maintenance with Augmented Reality


Faster fix: A U.S. Marine technician wears an augmented-reality headset as he carries out a maintenance task inside an armored vehicle. Credit: Steven Henderson and Steven Feiner

This article in Technology Review is a very good example of the use of AR in a Reverse Logistics scenario.  It demonstrates a real world use with quantifiable benefits.

Columbia University researchers have developed an AR system that allows Marine mechanics to perform a maintenance routine in approximately half the time traditionally taken.

The Columbia researchers worked with mechanics from the U.S. Marine Corps to measure the benefits of using an AR headset when performing repairs to a light armored vehicle. Currently, Marine mechanics have to refer to a technical manual on a laptop while performing maintenance or repairs inside the vehicle, which has many electric, hydraulic, and mechanical components in a tight space.

A user wears a head-worn display, and the AR system provides assistance by showing 3-D arrows that point to a relevant component, text instructions, floating labels and warnings, and animated, 3-D models of the appropriate tools. An Android-powered G1 smartphone attached to the mechanic’s wrist provides touchscreen controls for cueing up the next sequence of instructions.

I’d love to see this being applied more widely in the technology repair industry.  Keeping abreast of all the designs and build methods of the equipment we repair is one of the biggest challenges for us at Service Plus.  AR systems could dramatically improve our performance and ensure consistent service levels.  Obviously, there are also significant benefits in developing countries.

A great video of the system here.

Layar + iPhone = Cool


Layar has a smart way of displaying tags without cluttering the screen (too much).

Probably the most progressive and most watched of the geospatial augmented reality developers out there is Layar. Their Android version provoked a lot of interest and they have now released their iPhone app. It’s a free program and appears to be available worldwide (although some of the content is limited).

The most interesting thing about Layar is that they have opened their platform to other developers to provide “Layars” of content. Each Layar can have a unique look and feel… for instance, the Wikipedia Layar shows tags as the Wikipedia “W” until they are highlighted at which point they become the Wikipedia “globe”. Whilst many of the Layars are fascinating, unfortunately there is very little data available in New Zealand so I wasn’t able to try them out.

One thing I do like about Layar is the free text Google search. Searching for “computer service” came up with about 20 hits within 1km of me and rotating to select different tags is the easiest of the video overlay type apps I have tried. Layar have cleverly avoided the necessity to hold the phone over your head to see further away hits (a la acrossair) by positioning the tags on a grid representing distance. Also, rather than trying to display all of the information in the tag on the overlay, Layar draws a line to the bottom of the screen and references the info there. This allows a far more comfortable user experience.

Battery usage and heat are big issues with video overlay type AR apps on the iPhone, and Layar is no exception. You can choose a map or list view but that displays 360 degree hits so you lose the pointing functionality. It also doesn’t bookmark the last place you were at in the app… so if you get map directions, then reopen Layar, you have to navigate back to the place you left off. GeoVector World Surfer is superior in both these aspects.

There are a couple of Twitter Layars and I must admit that it feels a little voyeristic to view tweets from people based on them being nearby… but I suspect that the social media aspect of AR will be a big development in the future.

I’d strongly recommend Layar to any iPhone 3GS users out there. As a party peice you’ll get plenty of “ooohs” and “ahhhs”. There’s still a lot of room for improvement in the AR sphere, but this a good start… and it definitely has the “Cool” factor.