Augmented Reality in 2010

Rouli of Games Alfresco and Augmented Times has started a wonderful thread on Augmented Reality in 2010.  I figured I’d jump into the conversation with my take on what will emerge in 2010.  My general outlook for next year is that more focus will be paid to utility and entertainment uses of AR, and less focus will be paid to AR as marketing gimmick.

Augmented Reality for home shopping will explode

While AR browsers like Layar and Wikitude will continue to focus their attention on discovering information that is in the world at large, another class of AR applications will emerge that helps people see what could be in the comfort of their own home.  We’ll see a lot more applications released by manufacturers that sell products that go in people’s homes.  These applications will be more sophisticated than the recent IKEA campaign in Germany, as they will make use of the actual smartphone video stream to make sense of the user’s environment, and also allow people to purchase the products they’ve previewed right within the app.

(Image via MobiADNews)

(Image via MobiADNews)

Products that people will be able to “try before they buy” will run the gamut from furniture, artwork, electronics, window treatments, clothing, and maybe even paint colors.  This type of application will be to 2010 what the “hold a marker up to your webcam to see a marketing message” was in 2009.  And there will likely be both good and bad executions of the basic concept.

See-through eyewear will still be out of reach of the average consumer

As much as I’m chomping at the bit to see this happen, I think that any decent implementation of a see-through display will still be at the >$1000 price point.  One possible scenario that would change this is if one of the major game console players partners with a display manufacturer to release an AR-specific console that includes the eyewear, and they bank on selling millions of units.  The Nintendo Wii controller is a recent example of AR tech gone mainstream.  Steven Feiner remarked to me that he would have gladly paid hundreds of dollars for a device with the motion tracking abilities of the Wii controller before it came out.  However, I think this is not likely to happen in 2010, but perhaps 2011?  I would love nothing more than to be proven wrong on this one.

Games, games, and more games

I agree with Lester of Augmented Planet that “marker-based games will be the next wonder”, and Noah Zerkin that we’ll see “multi-user, multi-device, multi-perspective games”.  There will also be natural feature tracking games thrown in the mix that don’t require markers.  Apple will inevitably open up their camera API to developers, and the pent up demand will result in hundreds of AR games for the iPhone alone.

Augmented reality will raise consumer consciousness

There will be a number of companies that release applications in 2010 that help a consumer make more informed choices about the products they purchase day-to-day.  A user will be able to point their phone at a product and see information not readily available on the packaging.  Information such as manufacturing practices of the company that made the product, the distance the product had to travel, nutritional value, use of organics, etc.  Tish Shute speculates about “Green Tech AR apps” in her interview with Ori Inbar.  I’m going to optimistically say that 2010 will see the first real applications emerge in this area, although perhaps the data sets will not be as rich as they could be.  See Giuseppe Costanza’s excellent “Food Tracer” demo on a Symbian device:

Smartphones will ship with two video cameras

One camera pointing at the user, and one away, will make possible crude applications of augmented reality video conferencing.  At the very least, a smartphones with two cameras will allow both “magic mirror” and “through the looking glass” applications to be targeted to the same device.  There are already handsets on the market with two cameras, but generally one camera is used for snapshots and the other dedicated to video conferencing.  The first phones that allow simultaneous access to both cameras will most likely arrive on the Android platform.  This is really mere speculation on my part, but I hope to see a handset like this in 2010.

That’s just a handful of things I think we’ll be seeing in 2010, but I’m positive there will be more surprises next year than there were this year, and I’m fully looking forward to seeing what happens.  I especially hope that Noah Zerkin’s expectation that we will see “a step towards a more precise civilian positioning system” comes to pass, although I’m a bit more skeptical.  Until that happens, AR applications and games that rely solely on GPS + compass tracking will continue to disappoint.  What do you think?  Check out the running list of predictions and commentary at Augmented Times and simulcast at Games Alfresco, and join in the conversation.

US Postal Service makes practical use of augmented reality

This is one of the best uses of FLARToolkit that I have seen to-date. I’m glad to see people making use of AR to solve actual problems, and not solely for the wow factor. You can’t get much more un-wow than a USPS priority mail box, but a simple app like this could help make everyday decisions like how to ship that recent eBay sale all that much easier.

I see a lot of promise for AR in the home, helping people answer questions about how well real objects will work in their personal space before schlepping the actual atoms.

Try the app out here.

USPS augmented reality box fitting app

Via Games Alfresco, via Living in an Augmented Reality.

SAP EcoHub augmented reality project launched

I just finished developing a new augmented reality experience for SAP, to promote the SAP EcoHub during the Sapphire 09 conference in Orlando, FL this week.  The project was a collaboration between myself, Ori Inbar of Games Alfresco, and Seventh, Inc.  I programmed it, Ori produced it, and Seventh, Inc created the 3D artwork.

The project was completed on a pretty tight schedule, so there isn’t anything super ground-breaking about the experience.  It does, however, include some interesting interactions as far as these flash-based promotional AR apps go – the experience responds to the rotation of the marker, and also allows you to click on individual 3D cubes that take you to the corresponding EcoHub solution page.

The code is based upon the FLARToolkit and Papervision3D, and should be available under GPL license from SAP.

Check it out here, and let me know what you think.

Added support for multiple animation clips in Collada models in Papervision3D

On my current FLARToolkit project (release soon!), I needed the ability to trigger more than one animation for a Collada file.  No problem, I figured, I’ll just use the convenient method.  Unfortunately, I discovered that the implementation of that method didn’t make use of the “optional” clip name:

* Plays the animation.
 * @param clip Optional clip name.
public function play(clip:String=null):void
    _currentFrame = 0;
    _currentTime = getTimer();
    _isPlaying = (_isAnimated && _channels && _channels.length);

Luckily, the original author, Tim Knip, had coded enough of the foundations that adding in support for multiple clips was pretty straightforward. If you need to play multiple animations for your Collada models, and can’t wait for the fix to make it into Papervision3D, you can download a replacement:

The bug report is Issue 191, if you want to follow progress on its inclusion in the Papervision3D trunk.

DIY iPad Stand

Free DIY Lightweight Portable Adjustable iPad Stand

DVD Case iPad Stand with USB cord attached.

DVD Case iPad Stand with USB cord attached.

I’ve been on the look out for an iPad stand that I can throw in my laptop bag.  I’ve come across various DIY options, but all of them seemed either way too much work or not portable.  The .69 business card holder was the frontrunner, but I don’t have an Office Depot nearby, and also didn’t like the fact that it wasn’t something that would fold flat. Inspired by this Gizmodo post, I came up with a solution that you can create in a couple minutes.  All you need is a standard single DVD case, and a couple of binder clips, and you’ve got yourself a foldable, portable, flat, lightweight, adjustable, iPad case for $0:

  1. Empty the case
  2. Fold it back to the angle you prefer
  3. Fold the outside clear plastic around the side where the DVD should go, and use the binder clips to secure it.
  4. Insert your iPad into the DVD case interior clips

It folds in half for a quick stash in your bag, but is pretty rough around the edges.  For a cleaner fold:

  1. DVD Case iPad Stand folded up.

    DVD Case iPad Stand folded up.

    Remove the binder clips

  2. Re-clip them to the side of the DVD case opposite where the DVD would normally go
  3. Close the case

It works in both portrait and landscape orientations, and even accommodates the data cable if you bend the clips forward a bit to give it clearance.

DVD Case iPad Stand in landscape mode

DVD Case iPad Stand in landscape mode.

It might not take win any beauty contests or take the edge off the $30/month you’re shelling out for the 3G data plan, but just might give you a warm fuzzy feeling that you did the green thing by finding a use for your old stuff.

I’d love to hear if anyone tries this out.  Have any improvement suggestions?

DVD Case iPad Stand from the back

DVD Case iPad Stand from the back.

DVD Case iPad Stand at a steep angle

DVD Case iPad Stand at a steep angle.

DVD Case iPad Stand at a shallow angle

DVD Case iPad Stand at a shallow angle.