News, , , , , , , , , , , — September 6, 2011 15:34 — 1 Comment

An introduction to Augmented Reality

What lies beneath: the Guardian building in King's Cross, London

Augmented reality (AR) has been a feature of the smartphones since the iPhone 3G days and the launch of the Nokia N97. As the technology improves, along with user experience, AR could be the next big thing for film-makers, video game makers, artists and brands to showcase their work.

AR, as defined by Wikipedia, is ‘a term for a live direct or indirect view of a physical real-world environment whose elements are merged with or augmented by virtual computer-generated imagery…’

The Sydney-based digital artist Yiying Lu is already using AR as a creative tool to uncover an underworld of interactivity in her work. She has established a company, Walls 360 to produce custom graphics of her original designs that allows clients to order the artwork online and place them on their walls, either at home or in the office.

To give her work a unique edge Lu produced a new collection of fashion illustrations that integrated QR codes (Quick Response code designed to be read by smartphones) and the new Layar Vision app to the designs so that when scanned with the iPhone reader the user is pointed to a website to download digital versions of the artwork.

“When I released my QR collection recently I hinted at what my next step would be. Now I’ve taken a leap into exploring this new interactive underworld. We have breathed life into our WALLS 360 wall art and turned them into a launch point for messages, videos, games and more. I’m so excited by the creative ideas this has opened up for us and you will be seeing a lot more of them soon,” she told TNW.

Check out Yiying Lu’s interactive work

Yiying Lu announces AR wall art project from buildAR on Vimeo.

The number of apps incorporating AR is growing and with video recognition as a geospatial input we could literally be staring at the future.

Unlike QR codes, interactive art is more challenging because it is not immediately evident there is hidden content embedded. “That’s one of the challenges with Natural Feature Tracking”, says Rob Manson, Co-Founder of buildAR, who built the AR platform for Lu. “QR codes and Fiducial Markers are a little ugly but at least it’s clear to the user that they can be scanned. Now that we can make almost any image an AR marker it’s a more challenging communication issue.”

One video game that is taking this new technology to the max is iPhone MMO (massive multiplayer online) game Shadow Cities, by Finnish developer Grey Area.

‘Shadow Cities isn’t just the future of mobile gaming. It may actually be the most interesting, innovative, provocative and far-reaching video game in the world right now, on any system,’ says the New York Times no less.

The concept of the game is to take over the world, not a fantasy or virtual world, but the real world. And of course you are not alone, right there in real time on your screen are other players, trying to do the same.

Here’s how it works, according to the NYT. ‘When you log in to Shadow Cities, you see your actual location, as if you were using a satellite map program, which you are (using the iPhone’s GPS service). If you are in a reasonably populated area, you will also see nearby “gateways,” based on local landmarks. You then take control of those gateways and use them to power additional structures that allow you to grow in strength and stake a claim to control of your ’hood. When you log off, your empire remains, until some enemy players come along and raze it.’

What’s more, Shadow Cities is free from the iTunes app store.

I have yet to download and try out in London, but would be interested to hear any comments from users who have – and also any film-makers incorporating AR into their work.

Further reading

Augmented reality: The past, present and future

Augmented reality: it’s like real life, but better

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About the author

Tony Myers has written 866 articles for Smart Movie Making

Fooling around with the iPhone since 2010. Taking it to the next web by writing about new media, new technology, new wave cinema and the digital revolution.

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