Augmented reality experiments

I’m really not a fan of the goggle/glasses/helmet variety of AR, where the user wears something in front of their eyes that superimposes 3D objects into the physical world. In my experience this has been slow, inaccurate, cumbersome, headache inducing, the worst of VR plus a lot more problems. But AR is really interesting when it’s just a screen and a video feed, it becomes somehow magical: to see the same space represented twice: once in front of you, and once on screen with magical objects. I can imagine this working really well on mobile phones: the phone screen as magic lens to secret things.

Hand drawing markers

On that afternoon we didn’t have a printer handy for making the AR marks, so we took to drafting them by hand, stencilling them off the screen with a pencil and inking them in. This hand-crafted process led to all sorts of interesting connections between the possibilities of craft and digital information.

AR nail decorations

We had lots of ideas about printing the markers on clothes, painting them on nails, glazing them into ceramics, etc. We confused ARtoolkit by drawing markers in perspective, and tried to get recursive objects by using screen based markers and video feedback.

Confusing ARtoolkit

Now as it turns out there is an entire research programme dedicated to looking at just this topic. Variable Environment is a research programme involving partners like ECAL and EPFL. The great thing is that they are blogging the entire exploratory (they call it ‘sketch’) phase and curating the results online. The work is multi-disciplinary and involves architects, visual designers, computer scientists, interaction designers, etc. Check out the simple AR ready products, sample applications and mixed reality tests with various patterns.

This seems to be part of a shift in the research community, to publishing ongoing and exploratory work online (championed by the likes of Nicolas Nova and Anne Galloway). Very inspirational.

2 Comments

  1. Arts | Media Net » ARToolkit
    18 May 2007

    [...] The ARToolKit is one software library you could use to build your own Augmented Reality projects / interfaces. Below are images of projects created with ARToolKit. Timo Arnall has an interesting write up of some experiments he did with this free for non-commercial use software library. [...]

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