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Blog posts tagged as 'ar'

Links round-up: Foursquare visualisation, cute projectorcams, AR videogames, task management


Matt J provided this image of Kodak’s first digital camera, from 1975, and the accompanying story:

It was a camera that didn’t use any film to capture still images – a camera that would capture images using a CCD imager and digitize the captured scene and store the digital info on a standard cassette. It took 23 seconds to record the digitized image to the cassette. The image was viewed by removing the cassette from the camera and placing it in a custom playback device. This playback device incorporated a cassette reader and a specially built frame store. This custom frame store received the data from the tape, interpolated the 100 captured lines to 400 lines, and generated a standard NTSC video signal, which was then sent to a television set.


Matt B sent us Anil Bawa-Cavia’s visualisations of Foursquare check-in data for London, Paris and New York. The striking maps (an excerpt of which is displayed above) start by displaying activity across a uniform grid:

In these maps, activity on the Foursquare network is aggregated onto a grid of ‘walkable’ cells (each one 400×400 meters in size) represented by dots. The size of each dot corresponds to the level of activity in that cell. By this process we can see social centers emerge in each city.

There’s more at the link above, and also in Anil’s explanation of the techniques used – where he also provides a dump of all the data.


Matt W found this lovely design for a digital camera with built-in pico projector. Of course the two lenses are eyes. And everything else stems from there.

Nick pointed out that Epic Win is now on sale. It’s a playful to-do list that turns doing tasks into experience points for an avatar, much as Chore Wars before it. What sets it out for me is just how much value there is in making a functional piece of software – in this case, a to-do list – well-designed and beautiful. It’s fun to use, without getting in the way of the basic task of making lists, and I want to go back to it. It’s worth playing with just for the consistency of its visual design.

Finally, I really liked David Arenou’s “Immersive Rail Shooter”. In it, he takes the standard video-game lightgun game and adds the ability to use the environment for cover, by placing AR tags around a room for the console’s camera to detect. From his site about the project, it appears to be a very much working prototype (as opposed to proof-of-concept video).

What’s really fun for me is that although it uses markers and computer vision to detect the player’s location, the “augmenting” of reality is done not through a camera and a screen – but by changing of the room the player interacts with. All of a sudden, the chair in the real-world becomes cover in the game-world, and so you end up ducking and diving around the living room. No glasses, no holding a mobile phone in front of your face, but the boundary between the game and reality has very definitely been blurred.

Friday Links: Yet More AR, eBooks, and Atari

  • Augmented Reality Link Of The Week #1: Scope, by Frank Larsome. Scope is an AR tabletop wargame, played with special markers and (in a nice touch) any toys you have lying around. The interface and “game” elements are all projected onto the scene through the goggles.

    I like this because it’s consistent and realistic in its use of AR: it makes sense to wear goggles or some other kind of apparatus, because you’re an army commander surveying a battlefield. And I like that reality is genuinely being augmented here: the AR element is interface and head-up display, as opposed to some 3D element pretending to be real but clearly failing at that. AR is, quite rightly, part of the novelty of Scope.

    [via GameSetWatch]

  • And from the sublime to the ridiculous, as it were. This is Tribal DDB Asia’s “3D McNuggets Dip“, “The first 3D Augmented reality dipping game with McNuggets”.

    It’s AR as pure novelty: a marker to be used with a Flash webcam app, dragging an AR McNugget around a screen much like you might with a mouse, the sole novelty in the proposition being AR. It’s barely AR; it’s more Marker As Interface – much closer in implementation to the way a Wii Remote might be used.

    And what’s it all in aid of? Promoting a foodstuff made of both chicken and mechanically separated meat.

    [also via GSW]

  • Enough AR; onto ePublishing. Not the launch of the Kindle to international customers – but rather, the December launch of a series of eBooks for children.

    Excitingly, they’ve been targeted not at existing eReaders, nor a simplified eReader aimed at children, but to a device with a touchscreen that many kids already own: the Nintendo DS.

    It’s a deal between publishers Egmont Press and Penguin, with games company EA. The titles are priced at £24.99 – nearly the cost of a full DS game, but each cartridge has “6-8″ titles on it, which cuts the cost per book down to that of a paperback. And then, of course, there’s all the supplemental material.

    I like the idea of Flips (as the titles are known) because they’re basically nothing new: an existing product retargeted simply by aiming at a new, simpler, cheaper platform – and one that many kids already have. There’s nothing complex here in the software or the strategy, but if the implementation’s good, then perhaps they’ll be a success.

    Sure, the DS screen isn’t as easy on the eyes as a Kindle’s, and the resolution is lower, but that might be less of an issue for ten- and eleven- year olds.

    It’ll be interesting to see how they sell; it’ll also be interesting to see if it sparks interest in reading, and also where they’ll be stocked: games shops are likely to carry them, but will bookshops as well? We’ll find out in December, just in time for the Christmas rush.

  • atari-catalogAnd, finally, a small piece of gaming nostalgia that made me smile: the 1978 Atari catalogue, featuring titles for the VCS/2600. I like it if only for its emphasis on anything but the game screens, instead focusing on the large amounts of commissioned art. That cover brings nothing to mind so much as Mr Benn, and reminds me of the escpaism – the different outfits one can wear – that computer games have always had at their heart.

“Preparing Us For AR”: the value of illustrating of future technologies

When I wrote about Text In The World over on my personal blog a few weeks ago, our colleague Matt Jones left a comment:

“preparing us for AR” (augmented reality)

And this got me thinking about the ways that design and media can educate us about what future technologies might be like, or prepare us for large paradigm shifts. What sort of products really are “preparing” us for Augmented Reality?

A lot of consumer-facing the output of Augmented Reality at the moment tends to focus on combining webcams with specifically marked objects; Julian Oliver’s levelHead is one of the best-known examples:

But when AR really hits, it’s going to be because the technology it’s presented through has become much more advanced; it won’t just be webcams and monitors, but embedded in smart displays, or glasses, or even the smart contact lenses of Warren Ellis’ Clatter.

So whilst it’s interesting to play with the version of the technology we have today, there’s a lot of value to be gained from imagining what the design of fully-working AR systems might look like, unfettered by current day technological constraints. And we can do that really well in things like videos, toys, and games.

Here’s a lovely video from friend and colleague of Schulze & Webb, Timo Arnall:

Timo’s video imagines using an AR map in an urban environment. I particularly like how he emphasises that there are few limitations on scale when it comes to projecting AR – and the most convenient size for certain applications might be “as big as you can make it”. Hence projecting the map across the entire pavement.

Here’s another nice example: the Nearest Tube application for the iPhone 3GS:

This is perhaps a more exciting interpretation of what AR could be, and what AR devices might be (not to mention a working, real-world example): the iPhone becomes a magic viewfinder on the world, a Subtle Knife that can cut through dimensions to show us the information layer sitting on top of the world. It helps that it’s both useful and pretty, too.

Games are a great way of getting ready for the interfaces technologies like AR afford. Here’s a clip I put together from EA Redwood Shores’ Dead Space, illustrating the game UI:

Dead Space has no game HUD; rather, the HUD is projected into the environment of the game as a manifestation of the UI of the hero’s protective suit. It means the environment can be designed as a realistic, functional spaceship, and then all the elements necessary for a game – readouts, inventories, not to mention guidelines as to what doors are locked or unlocked – can be manifested as overlay. It’s a striking way to place all the game’s UI into the world, but it’s also a great interpretation of what futuristic, AR user interfaces might be a bit like.

Finally, a toy that never fails to make me smile – the Tuttuki Bako:

This is Matt Jones playing with a Tuttuki Bako in our studio. You place your finger into the hole in the box, and then use it to control a digital version of your finger on screen in a variety of games. It’s somewhat uncanny to watch, but serves as a great example of a somewhat different approach to augmented realities – the idea that our bodies could act as digital prosthetics.

All these examples show different ways of exploring an impending, future technology. Whilst much of the existing, tangible work in the AR space is incremental, building upon available technology, it’s likely that the real advances in it will be from technology we cannot yet conceive. Given that, it makes sense to also consider concepting from a purely hypothetical design perspective – trying things out unfettered by technological limitations. The technology will, after all, one day catch up.

What’s exciting is that this concept and design work is not always to be found in the work of design studios or technologists; it also appears in software, toys, and games that are readily consumable. In their own way, they are perhaps doing a better job of educating the wider world about AR (or other new technologies) than innumerable tech demos with white boxes.

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