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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ARLab Image Tracking SDK

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      In this post we want to present the product which has been the most challenging for us: image tracking. Unlike in older Augmented Reality systems that use QR Codes or Markers (commonly black and white) in order to follow the target, markerless systems only use the image itself. This means that is not needed to prepare the image before or even introduce in the environment ugly marks to be able to follow it.

       The aim of tracking the target is to know where it is on the scene and how its pose or perspective is regarding to the viewer. This pose camera estimation of the target is very important if we want to achieve a successful augmented experience, due to Augmented Reality systems aim at the superposition of additional scene data, like 3D objects or video, into the video stream of a real camera used.

      With the image tracking SDK, once more, we bring the idea of making Augmented Reality affordable to everyone. With this new SDK, you are going to be able to track almost any image you want. It supports thousands of images within pools of 50 or even 60 images. this technology allows you to superpose any information over the target tracked into the video stream of the device.

      The image tracking engine works as follows: it recognizes the image to be tracked and tracks its position at any time, providing some useful information about it. This information provided by the engine includes: the image you have recognized, its current location on the screen and the camera pose estimation (projection matrix), so you can integrate it with others SDKs , like for exampe our 3D Render engine or other 3D engines from another companies. You will also be able to add or remove images from the pool at execution time, load images both from the mobile device resources or URLs. And finally you can get advantage from our built-in camera view or just create your own view wherever is more comfortable for you.

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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Augmented Reality, a new “door” for 3D artists.

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      Since 3D design is a crucial part in the development of any augmented reality system, these 3D artists have seen a new field plenty of opportunities to develop their ideas and talents. Mobile programming, real-time optimization or computer vision algorithms play an essential role in current augmented reality systems, but 3D design is the viewable part, the “face” for costumers, the last layer of these systems. Thus, everyone can imagine how important are those 3D professionals for successful AR systems.

      A few years back in time, 3D artists were mostly needed in industries like videogames, advertising and movies. Now, Augmented Reality has opened a whole new market with job oportunities and a lot of yet undiscovered creative uses. The need for 3D designers for AR is clear, and now that this new market is growing exponentially, thanks to it’s uses for marketing (and even videogames), will also create a big ammount of new jobs.

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ARLab, a new vision for a smarter society.

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      After several months of hard work we are ready to offer an extended portfolio of technological solutions for AR. Our differentiated value is to support the creation of not only useful, easy and fast applications developed by software experts, but also precise, elegant and effective technologies that enable an efficient development in an extremely short time to market.

We build technologies according to developers’ needs and provide them with functional solutions to materialize their ideas in the shortest time possible. ARLab´s aim is to develop SDKs for developers. Starting on Android and iOS, that will include all the computer vision features that any Augmented Reality app can request. That´s why our suite of products includes geolocation, visual search, natural features tracking, interactive virtual buttons and AR game engine. This will be followed by face detection, recognition and tracking engine; and object tracking that will be released soon. The most important for us is to create real tools for developers, that´s why we really take care of creating a simple API in a native platform language, objective-C in iOS and Java in Android, following how Google or Apple would do it in their own frameworks. So, the developer will not need to do any extra learning effort in order to use our SDKs. Also the documentation is one of our pillars, oriented for pure developers, with lot of sample codes and tutorials.

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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 in Education. Part II

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      Among all the Augmented Reality applications, one of the most important and practical ones is its use in education. There are many companies and developers which make an effort to introduce this technology to students, professionals and researchers related to the education field.

      Like in nearly all the Augmented Reality applications, through specific images into the text books, students will be able to access extra 3D contents related to each image. This additional information will improve, not only the students´ experience, but also the way in which they learn the lesson, allowing them to understand the content much better than without Augmented Reality.

      This makes sense when we talk about lessons for children, where they can feel that they play with this extra layered information, with which they will have a more robust learning, as has been shown by some researchers in the field. In an advanced levels, like high school, university degrees or even research, Augmented Reality may be used when the user needs a 3D Space view about the environment in order to understand some concepts, like could happen in geometry, chemistry or architecture.

Augmented Reality makes the learning process more efficient, interesting and enjoyable.

Augmented Reality MasterClass given by our CTO.

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      In our crusade to spread not only the Augmented Reality technology, but also all our products, we are also involved in several Masters courses in Spanish universities, where some of our staff are the responsible to teach this technology and its advantages to students enrolled in the aforementioned courses. In these courses or classes we are the responsible of introducing students, engineers, or even teachers in such exciting field. Apart from the general view of the Augmented Reality and its current situation, we also introduce our products.

      The main idea of these classes, courses, conferences or seminars is just to approach this amazing technology to engineering’s students and professionals who aren´t familiar with it. It is impressive that, in most of the cases they don´t know anything about Augmented Reality at all, but after these opportunities they feel super interested on this technology and its advantages and possibilities.

      Moreover, we show them the ease of integrating Augmented Reality in mobile apps using the ARLab SDKs. We offer an affordable solution to whom are willing to develop mobile Augmented Reality apps, and we encourage them to use our solution for several reasons like: ease and fast integration, features and great documentation, price and performance.

      If you are interested in attend via online to this masterclass given by Pablo García, ARLab CTO, it will take place on 20th, Thursday at 18:00 (only to spanish speakers). Please click the following lint to register:

http://www.unir.net/masterclass/realidad-aumentada.aspx 

Fingerprint Extraction for Matching & Tracking

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There have been several questions, requests and discussions regarding which is the proper way to add images to the image matching and tracking pool with our SDKs. Here I’m going to do a brief summary of strengths and weakness of each option:

1.) Add normal images from the device resources (locally) or from URL (remote):

  •  API Functions:

ANDROID

Local

addImage (int resourceId)

addImage (int resourceId, int uniqueId)

addImage (Bitmap bmpImage, int uniqueId)

addImage (Bitmap bmpImage)

Remote

addImage (String imageURL)

addImage (String imageURL, int uniqueId)

IOS:

Local

addImage:

addImage:withUniqeID:

Remote

addImageFromUrl:

addImageFromUrl:withUniqeID:

  • Strengths:

- Images can be added “on the fly”

  • Weakness:

-The process of feature extraction is done locally on the device and can take some time when there are a lot of images in the pool (80+).

2.) Add pre-trained images (.dat files).

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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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