Archive for the ‘technology’ Category

Will the human body support some ways of Augmented Reality?

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      It is not strange that scientists want to push the limits of technology in the human body. This is, of course, the case of Augmented reality, from which we have recently seen the development of the AR glasses by Google.

      The AR glasses are designed to let users capture video with a built-in camera as well as use downloaded apps, internet, and social networks sites on the move. A small projector displays an image in front of the wearer’s eyes while letting them stay aware on the outside world. The idea is easy, the user is able to see valuable information with no need to bring with him/her another special hardware like a smartphone or even a laptop. Thus, we can even think that the glasses may be an extension of the human body, or the eye, allowing the user to perceive more information with no extra effort, only just looking at the place from where the information is required.

      But as always, there are people that go further (which us very good for science),  and try to push these limits even more. Some of these innovators have developed an Augmented Reality system which can be run over a contact lenses! Their idea is basically that the human eye is a perceptual powerhouse. It can see millions of colors, adjust easily to shifting light conditions, and transmit information to the brain at a rate exceeding that of a high-speed Internet connection. But why stop there?  This is the premise that these unstoppable minds have for conducting such amazing researches.

It is true that all of the aforementioned advances sound very nice, and at a first glance we could even think that this is going to be a change in the way we perceive and interact with the environment but, what about the human body limits? Is it ready to physiologically hold such an amount of information?

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-AR contact lenses

Next games generation could include Augmented Reality

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      In fact, there are video games that already include augmented reality but, generally they are mainly oriented to children . For example we can take a look to the “Eye Pet” developed by Sony, where children can have a “virtual” pet and play with it using only a card that works as target.

       But actually, we want to talk about action games, or sports games, where the introduction of Augmented Reality could lead to new and engaging experiences for gamers. It is not strange to think that the spreading of the Augmented Reality technology will also reach the game industry, due to its wide range of possibilities. Using next coming generations of AR systems, we will be able to map our room, or the environment where we are, and display a huge set of Augmented objects which will give us a more immersive game experience. Apart of improving the direct user´s interaction with the elements of the game by adding new augmented objects that the user is able to play with, AR may enhance the cooperation and the experience of multiplayer games by geolocating elements where the action takes place.

        In order to get this idea, please imagine an action game like the well known “counter strike”, where several users belong to a team and have to kill another game players. Now image that, instead of staying at home, in front of the computer, each player plays outside, and has a device with an AR system integrated that is able to track where each of these players is and show the location of all the players on their devices’ screens. Wouldn´t it be exciting?

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The evolution of Augmented Reality

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In this post I would like to take a look backward and talk about how Augmented Reality began. Nowadays a lot of people know what is Augmented reality but, do they know how it was born?

      Although Virtual Reality is much older than the 1980s or 1970s, older or nearly as old as the entire computer graphics field itself (in fact in 1956, Morton Heilig began designing the first multisensory virtual experiences), it wasn´t until late 1960s when it is considered as the beginnings. In 1968, Ivan Sutherland, an American computer scientist and Internet pioneer,and with the help of his student Bob Sproull, created the first virtual reality and augmented reality head-mounted display system, which was named The Sword of Damocles. This system used an optical see-through head-mounted display that was tracked by one of two different 6DOF trackers: a mechanical tracker and an ultrasonic tracker. Due to the limited processing power of computers at that time, only very simple wireframe drawings could be displayed in real time. So we can state that the field we now know as virtual reality (promoter of Augmented Reality), a highly multidisciplinary field of computing, emerged from research on three-dimensional interactive graphics and vehicle simulation in the 1960s and 1970s.

      The term “augmented reality” was coined in 1992 to refer to overlaying computer-presented material on top of the real world. Tom Caudell and David Mizell discussed the advantages of Augmented Reality versus Virtual Reality such as requiring less processing power since less pixels had to be rendered.

      From earliest 1990s to present, there have been a lot of new advances and significant improvements in the augmented reality field, not only for desktop solutions but also for mobile devices. Here we will show a short list that shows some of these advances:

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Augmented Reality, linking augmented and real world.

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     As its definition states, augmented reality is a technology that augments the view of a real world environment, overlaying extra information to the real objects present on that real world, and so enhancing users’ current perception of reality. This extra information is “augmented” by computer-generated sensory input, like graphics or GPS data which comes from the GPS’ device. It is important to say that unlike in virtual reality, where the computer generated data replaces the elements present in the real world, in augmented reality this computer data is added to it in order to improve the user´s perception of the environment.

      Modern augmented reality systems allow smartphones and other mobile devices to be able to integrate these systems into them. In order to make possible the creation of augmented elements into the real world, devices can use one or more of the following technologies: optical sensors,  accelerometers and gyroscopes , GPS, solid state compasses, RFID and wireless sensors.

      According to how or what Augmented Reality will show, one or more than one of the aforementioned technologies can be used. One example that we can find of linking augmented components into the real world is an augmented geolocated view (picture 1). In this type of geolocated views, the augmented reality system will use the GPS, accelerometers, gyroscopes and compasses in order to place a lot of Point of interests according to the user´s location and direction. Once all the data received from this hardware are analyzed, the output will be used to place some POIs on the screen, with very useful information for the user like distance to the POIs, directions to them, or what is the meaning of those POIs, for example.

      Picture 1. Example of an augmented reality geolocated view.

      Another widely spread augmented reality system is the one that uses the optical sensors to “catch” what is happening in the environment, analyzes the input information and overlays the augmented information over the real physic world. As augmented reality is becoming more popular, these AR systems which use the camera as the “door” for input data are playing an important role on the merging between both worlds.

  Picture 2. Example of an augmented reality image tracking.

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Is AR a really useful tool for Education?

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      After attending to several conferences and forums to talk about the introduction of augmented reality in school and its “benefits”, there are still people who think that Augmented Reality may be a danger among students, and it has more disadvantages than advantages.

      One of the main ideas that were shown at the conferences by educators is that the introduction of Augmented Reality at school may lead to lazier students. Currently, students have more facilities than some years or decades ago, but the seeking of extra information that is not at books is still a must in order to get solid knowledge. This effort will allow them to develop some abilities that will be useful in later steps of their lives. These abilities may be forgotten if students are not pushed to look for this extra information since it is provided by the addition of Augmented Reality technologies. Thus, in this aspect, some professionals think that the introduction of AR at school, instead of enhancing the learning process could be self-defeating for the students who use it as only tool.

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Augmented Reality and privacy.

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       Despite the fact that Augmented Reality is impressing nearly all the people, there are still some issues to improve, like the privacy. One thing is true, the web is getting more and more interconnected to the “real” world, sharing a lot of useful-  and non useful- information with its users. Thanks to some augmented reality apps implemented within mobile devices, like augmented reality browsers, allows users to get this information even when they are on the street. For example, the use of these apps allows you to  recognize physical objects when you point your mobile device at them, to show you reviews of nearby restaurants hovering in the air as you hold up your phone or even to know the location of other people holding a GPS integrated device.

      Clearly, exponentially growing technologies are set to change the way in which people carry out their social communications and share their personal data, bringing up a number of control and privacy questions that worry them. We have seen that this emerging technology seems amazing and cool and it is pushing social communications in exciting directions , but what are the privacy implications of the integration of this kind of technology?

       Depending on how the user will try to use the data, the privacy can play an important role on the technology’ s spreading and further success. For instance, if the user tries to access to public data, there is not an important security issue due to the data is publicly available. In the other hand, if the user tries to access to private data, like personal photos, friends or even your address, then people should be worried about those privacy and security issues. But even in this case we cannot entirely blame the privacy rules, but the users because they do not really realize that they do not share their private data responsibly.  This is not a problem that is unique to augmented reality applications but considering the growth expected in the industry it needs to be addressed and users protected from sharing to much data.The following picture shows an extreme case about what we are trying to explain, where the private data is known by all the users.

Picture 1. This picture shows an extreme case of sharing private data.

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Standardization of the Augmented Reality

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      Augmented Reality for both personal computers and mobile devices is one of the areas that currently promises so much but as it becomes more popular can be felt the lack of a standardization. This means that there is no standard way of creating such Augmented Reality applications and augmented reality developers have to break their minds each time they need an application.

      Nowadays, there is no standard way to create Augmented Reality applications, neither PCs nor mobile devices. Companies which develop their own Augmented Reality application with no use of external tools,use proprietary technologies. This means, among other things, that different Augmented Reality apps or even different Augmented Reality modules which belong to an app may be unable to talk to each other and thus share data. There are a lot of proprietary Augmented Reality technologies but there are no open standards.

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How AR will save new powerfull devices

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       Great and powerful mobile devices are willing for Augmented Reality and not the opposite

      The lastest smartphones generations are targeting to become much more powerful than most of the personal computers normal users have at home. This is a great opportunity because all the tasks which a user had solely been able to carry out in a personal computer, nowadays, they can be done in those such powerful devices. Furthermore, the hardware integrated within these mobile devices allows users to have games or applications with amazing graphics designs. But the question that may come to the people´s mind is, are such powerful devices needed? or are the mobile brands offering more power than current users demand?

      Those questions drive us to the main claim in this post. Augmented reality is not willing for fast and powerful mobile devices. It is the new powerful mobile devices that are willing for augmented reality.

      Although augmented reality has been honored with the description of a cool and fancy feature, it has as well won the bad reputation of sensitive performance with a lot of demands and constraints. Those tough requirements mainly come from the computer vision sides involved in augmented reality. Heavy image processing tasks, plus manipulation of the camera itself and the 3D world rendering have gathered all to make augmented reality “impossible”.

Figure 1. This figure shows the evolutions of the mobiles in recent years.

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Quaternion. The magic of the 3-Dimensional space.

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Once you enter into the amazing 3-Dimensional space you notice that there are several concepts to use if you want to apply transformations over your 3D models. We are talking about rotations, translations and scaling. We can rotate a in the 3D space using: Euler angles, rotation Matrices and quaternions.

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