Testing Out Augmented Reality
One of the many technologies we’re fascinated with is AR (Augmented Reality). For those who aren’t familiar with it, AR is basically a way of adding computer-generated objects and information into live, real-world video. In other words, you can see through the “eye” of the computer (or phone or other device with a camera) and see an alternate reality that’s been augmented with extra stuff. Stuff that’s been added in by someone like ADi.
AR has a lot of potential in the kind of work that we do. By manipulating reality, just a little, we can allow people to see objects that don’t exist yet (like new kinds of technology, or virtual versions of rare artifacts). It’s also useful for displaying information in context of location, like, for example, showing real estate listings in the area around you, or revealing the flow of cargo along the road you’re on, or pointing out regions of the neighborhood that are scheduled for renovation.
Augmented Reality isn’t a new technology. It’s been available in various forms for a few years now. However, until recently, AR applications have largely been the domain of software developers and hackers. So I was happy to discover that, recently, new tools have emerged that allow people without a lot of C# skills the ability to create Augmented Reality applications.
As part of our research into this technology, we’ve been forming connections with AR-related companies. One of these is known as metaio (lowercase intentional). They’ve developed several AR tools, aimed at various levels of expertise. I’ve been experimenting with metaio Creator, and I’ve used it to create a simple target-based AR scene that can be viewed through an Apple or Android smartphone or tablet.
If you’d like to take a look at the results on your own device, it’s pretty easy to get started. First, on your iOS or Android device, install the free app known as “Junaio”, which is metaio’s viewer application. Then, print out the custom target I created, here. Then, use Junaio to scan the built-in QR code on the target (the QR code is the funny-looking square inside the “D”). A link will pop up on the screen, at the bottom of the code. Hit “Open” and it will automatically download and enable the 3D scene! Give it a few seconds to load (it might appear that nothing’s happening for a bit), and you should eventually see something like this:
Try moving your phone/tablet around the target, and you’ll notice that you can see the object from all sides. You can also do this by turning the target page in different directions. As long as your device’s camera can see most of the target image, it uses this to determine the placement, angle, and size of the 3D object or scene.
There are lots of different kinds of Augmented Reality systems, and not all of them require a custom target. There are ways of detecting someone’s palm, for example, or their face, or even the whole body, and adding stuff like clothes, watches, glasses. Or an application could detect a car, and add on accessories or wheels to show you what it could look like with customization. This technology is becoming more and more intelligent, and therefore more and more useful in everyday situations. In fact, Google’s put a lot of resources into developing Augmented Reality glasses, known as Project Glass, that will replace the small screen with a full-on visual overlay of the real world.
Pretty cool, right? What do you think would be a good use for something like this?