Archive for June, 2012

User Interface Basics: Windows Phone 7 compared to Android & iOS

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Windows just announced the new mobile operating system, Windows Phone 8. We would like to point out what we consider the two main key points for developers:

  1. Nowadays WP7 devices will not be able to upgrade to the new operating system. That is a huge inconvenience. If we want to develop an app for all Windows Phone devices, don’t use WP8 or make one app for WP7 and another for WP8.
  2. All Windows OS will be more similar. Obviously this is a big advantage, it will be much easier to port code between PC, mobile or tablet applications.

By the way, don’t worry about your WP7 apps, they will run in WP8, as Larry Lieberman stressed.

That said, we want to share with you some basic functionalities we have been using in our first steps with WP7. One of ARLab common practices in app development is to include within a parent class the recurring functions used in all screens.

First we will share how iOS & Android  achieve our goal. Then, we will give a step-by-step explanation of how WP7 reaches the same point, if possible. It’s pretty simple, and quite useful for code maintaining.


AR Applications in Industrial Scenarios

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      Augmented Reality in its very nature aims at delivering specific contextual information about some scenarios in order to enhance the user knowledge, and finally ease and improve the accomplishment of tasks that can vary according the application fields. Among the very different scenarios (i.e., entertainment, education, navigation, medicine, military, and more), AR is well on its way to becoming a valuable application tool also in industry. In particular, there are specific stages in the research and development of goods, but also in their maintenance, that would gain a significant benefit from AR exploitation.

Fig. 1 -Comparison of non-AR and AR-based tasks execution


BombAR. The first game developed by ARLab with the ARBrowser technology

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       In this entry we want to present you the first Augmented Reality game developed by ARLab using our own technology. The technology used in this application is based on the ARBrowser, an augmented reality geolocation view which allows you to add extra information to the real world.

Figure 1. Promotional Image of the game in Google Play  

        The game shows several capabilities of the ARLab ARBrowser, like the possibility of adding and removing POIS- represented in this case by the bombs- in real time, the accuracy and smoothness of the movements or the capability to customize 100% the look and feel and workflow of this “white label” solution.

          As it is claimed in the ARBrowser features, the action to be carried out when the user clicks a POI are fully customizable, and in this case we decided just to remove the POI and give a punctuation according to the POI clicked.

Figure 2. It shows an example of the game running.  

              Right now, you are able to develop something like this following the very simple API documentation available here. This documentation and of course this Browser have been created to be used by both beginners or experts. Moreover, it is so easy to use that you will have your ARBrowser ready to be used in less than 20 minutes, like is shown in this video tutorial.

These are some specific features of BombAR:

- BombAR the ultimate augmented reality game! Deactivate bombs around you!
- We have prepared 8 different levels, starting from super easy #1 to super hard #8! Try to get 3 STARS!
- Additionally, you can play the survival mode. Bombs will silently approach to you, check out the radar to deactivate them! This mode has no end, survive as much as possible!

Get it for free from the Google Play in this link. Soon it will be available also for iOS devices.

Designing UX in Mobile Augmented Reality. Part I

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      As we already know, Augmented Reality provides an extra information of the real world we see and it also changes the user experience but, do we know how to design this UX in order to drive MAR into the future as an engaging and compelling new technology?

      Designing good Augmented Reality experiences is a hard task and UX designers must be aware of several problems the users can face. Although last two or three years Mobile Augmented Reality has considerably been improved, in terms of computer vision algorithms and devices’ hardware, there is still a lot of applications which rely on ugly, marker-based technologies.


Figure 1. It shows an example of a UX Design for an Augmented Reality use.

        User’s expectations are fast growing and more in the current technological world we are living. He gets used fast and easily and is requesting for more and better experiences. So, instead of rendering an augmentation information on top of some preconfigured marker which has to be printed and placed, the users require a technology that is able to work anywhere, recognize and make alive anything.


Augmented Reality could reach to automotive field soon. PART I

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        In the race auto brands carry out to take competitive advantage over the rest, several of them are taking into consideration the fact to add Augmented Reality technology not only in their advertising campaigns, but also in the physic car. All of us already know that the advancement of technology has birthed many innovative creations, in several fields and among them especially in the automotive industry. Thus, a large digital display would be created in order to show all of this information. But the use of Augmented Reality in cars is not restricted to a simply using as a GPS. The computer vision technology behind Augmented Reality can be also integrated in such applications in functionalities like image recognition for traffic signals, keeping the safe distance between cars, or even warning to the driver in danger situations, such as in lane changes or in those moments when drivers could fall asleep.

Figure 1. An example of a windshield displaying digital information.


Augmented Reality and 3D and Computer Vision for Augmented Reality

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Today we’re inviting you to read two articles on how AR technology is expanding nowadays.

First of all, this article talks about the involvement of 3D technology in AR, movies and videogames. This article sums up how different technologies have been adapted to all these industries and gives a few examples of how those are used. A short yet interesting article and a great light reading.

Augmented Reality and 3D

Secondly, we bring you a more technical article for the engineers here, or simply for anyone who likes a bit more complicated, in depth reading.

It talks about the evolvement of the VR(Virtual Reality) technology its growth in the global market. It also talks about the reasoning behind the 3D technology, what it is based on and how did the pioneers in the 3D technology tackled the issue of creating a 3D model out of a 2D surface.

Computer Vision for Augmented Reality

3D Softwares – Which one is better to start with?

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When we want to create 3D content for augmented reality or for any other purposes, we need, of course, a 3D creation software. There are plenty of options, and some of them are thought for being combined with other ones, so in this post I’ll talk a little about some of the main 3D softwares so you can decide which one fits your needs better or it’s more accessible to you.

First things first… if you’re new to 3D, nottice that you’re going to find yourself overwhelmed by the interface and the big ammount of options, but this doesn’t depend too much on the software you pick, they’re all similar: different interfaces, different workflows or philosophies, but similar options and features. It’s just that 3D is a really big world, and you just need to take sometime to get used to the new options that you have in your hands.

So let’s mention the most used 3D softwares: 3Ds Max, Maya, SoftImage, Modo, LightWave, Blender. There are a lot more, but these are the most powerful and popular ones, so we’ll focus on them.

Logos of the main 3D Softwares


Will Augmented Reality improve the blind people´s life?

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       When we think on technology from the perspective of people with vision loss, we can think of two main categories: general technology or assistive technology. While in the former we can think on devices like personal computers, smartphones or a GPS device, in the later we must think on items designed specifically to help people with vision loss or other disabilities, such as devices specifically designed for reading and writing with low vision or even with no vision, or screen readers for blind individuals.

      Fortunately for countless people with vision impairments, today’s assistive technology for the blind and vision impaired makes writing and reading, in term papers much easier than before. Blind technology also assists the visually impaired with reading books, websites, and email, using appliances, navigating cities and towns, and much more.

     As evidence of this approach of technological field to the blind people, we can  find the screen reading software, which simulates the human voice reading the text on a computer screen or renders hard-copy output into Braille. This advancement has been considered like the most important since blind assistive technology started to be present in the field of blindness in the 1970s. Apart from this, several improvements, inventions and new devices have been developed in order to try to enhance the day-to-day of these people.


Tracking the World in AR Scenarios

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The general goal of AR is to integrate and supplement the real world with additional contextual information. In light of this, the capability of understanding the surroundings in an automatic fashion is a fundamental and crucial need. Among others, 2 main tasks can be identified in the processing pipeline enabling this capability in a machine: I) object recognition, and II) tracking object motion in successive time instants. In particular, due to the rapid evolution of the AR needs, efficient and reliable tracking techniques are becoming essential.

Fig. 1 - 3D information estimation from 2D projections

Considering that the image is the 2D projection of a 3D scene, strictly speaking the tracking in image sequences is always 2-dimensional. However, injecting prior information about the 3D geometry of the surrounding can enable the estimation of 3D information from the observed 2D motion: this particular processing is usually referred to as 3D tracking. Relying on this concept, several interesting tasks can be performed, like estimating the 3D object trajectories and the object pose, or inferring the camera 3D motion, or derive the 3D structure of the scene. The theoretical complexity and the computational demand of these tasks is far from being trivial, and particularly sophisticated methods have to be implemented in order to assure a good trade-off between accuracy and timing performance. In fact, other than “regular” 2D object/feature tracking, a further processing phase is requested in order to derive/fit the 3D information considering the prior knowledge. This is particularly true when dealing with devices at medium/low processing and memory capabilities, like mobile phones.

The exploitation of 3D information is essential in AR scenarios for different tasks involving both planar surfaces (e.g., printed pictures) and full 3D solid objects (e.g., boxes, cylinders). In particular, the former can be considered as a simplified case of the latter: in fact, when tracking features over a planar target the influence of object self-occlusions can be ignored with little impact on the overall framework performance. As an example, let’s consider the tracking of a book cover. The target is planar and its projection in the camera frame is also planar. This allows a complete modelling of the relationship between target object and its projection in the image in terms of a simple homography matrix. Then, according to the requirements, one can extract 3D information from the homography, allowing a 3D pose estimation of the target in the space.

Fig. 2 - Iterative 3D pose estimation process


Mobile Augmented Reality will break into the market of the future

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       Augmented Reality has been present for long time, not only in research but also in the market in different ways, like customized applications in military displays, in industrial environments or lately in online marketing and even advertising.

        In the last years,  an entirely new market has opened up in mobile handsets, mainly pushed by the improvements on hardware, like cameras and processors. This will end, in the closest future, on an immense growth in the products and applications which MAR provides .

        The application market is further segmented into industrial applications and commercial applications. The industrial applications cover defense, medical, manufacturing and repair. The consumer applications cover the gaming market, e-learning, GPS, and online advertisement.

       Some researches on the field conclude that Mobile Augmented Reality (MAR) will expand exponentially in the five year forecast period (2011-2016) following the widespread popularity of one or a handful of killer MAR applications, expected in late 2012 or early 2013. By the end of the forecast period MAR will still be in a growth phase, with a market worth valued in the billions and occupying a 25% share of all application downloads. The MAR market promises to grow at a precipitous rate over the forecast period and visiongain illustrates this evolution in a way that is clear, justifiable, and comprehensive. More importantly, the advent of MAR will have a profound and lasting impact on the way that people use their mobile devices. It will push the telecoms industry towards ubiquitous computing and a technologically converged paradigm. [1]

[1] Source: PR Newswire