All items about augmented reality


The PlaneFinder Augmented Reality app identifies planes in the sky

If an aircraft enthusiast monitors position broadcasts from passing flights and records the identifiers and positions of those planes, is it a threat to security? Most would say no, the information is already being broadcast. What about if he publishes that information on a website? Well, now it’s easier for anyone to use that information – but it’s the same information.

Now, an app, PlaneFinder, has been released for the Android and iPhone which  makes that same information even more usable – you can now point your phone at the sky and get a live readout of the flight number, speed, destination and route of that otherwise unknown dot in the sky – a pretty powerful tool for plane-spotters and the public.

US authorities including the Federal Aviation Authority and the Department of Homeland Security are concerned that this could be used by terrorists and are investigating the matter. The Daily Mail and other tabloids are concocting horror stories of how the app could be used to target surface-to-air missiles. There are reports that “security experts” have deemed the app “an aid to terrorists”.

Clearly, there is some fear-mongering here, as with any story that can be linked to terrorists – but the pattern is one that is repeating more and more. Using new technology, people are harvesting publicly accessible data, making it usable in new ways, in new situations – and shifting the balance of power from the establishment to the individual. And the establishment doesn’t like that. Should tools that offer such access be banned, as the tabloids suggest? Or would that just deny the public access to a useful tool – and make little difference to the determined wrong-doer?

Read more at ndtv or on Slashdot.


The Mobile Radicals Research Group, from Lancaster, UK, today presented their paper “Harnessing creativity to broaden the appeal of location-based games” at the HCI2010 conference.

Kate Lund from the group highlighted the limitations of the few location-based games that have reached the public attention. For example Foursquare and Gowalla have very simple actions and very limited gameplay. The group had took inspiration from geo-caching, noting that is is inclusive and easy to do, but has limited appeal.

They re-invented geo-caching as a game for families and children, creating a new mobile game called “Free All Monsters”. Children can use their creativity to draw monsters, these monsters then get transplanted into the real world, where they and their friends can then use a “Magical Monstervision Machine” (a Nokia N95 running special software) to detect and find monsters in the real world. The display overlays the sensor information and monster pictures onto the real world, much like Layar and other augmented reality applications:

The game reinvents geocaching in a creative, understandable way. For example, the strength of the GPS fix is represented as a “Captoplasm” gauge – you can’t capture monsters if you haven’t got enough. The game reinforces creativity throughout. Children’s monster creations are added to a “Liber Monstorum” (book of monsters), which is used to populate the game world – personalizing the game to the players.

Players also have a “Monster Spotter’s Guide” (which helps encourage teamwork) and have a set of thought-provoking questions for players to answer for each discovery, like “What does this monster dream?” or “Where would he go on holiday?”

The game is also designed to keep players focussed on the real world (which is why the camera augmentation approach is chosen) and favours teamwork and fun over speed and competitiveness.

The game has been used successfully on a small scale at a number of outdoor open days, and will soon be released for use anywhere in the world as an iPhone application (early video here).

There’s more about the group and their research at


AR meets 3D modeling

Techi has a piece on Leonar3Do, a new take on 3D modeling. It looks as far from traditional modeling tools as they were from pen and paper.

Years ago, I played around with 3D modeling (and narrowly avoided a career at Matrox and Softimage in the process.) Building models was tedious: manipulating 3D space with two-dimensional tools like a mouse and a screen is tough. Software relies on all sorts of controllers, UI conceits, and tricks: rotating the onscreen image; holding down shift to move along the third dimension, and so on.

Google acquired Sketchup to help crowdsource 3D content for Google Earth largely because it was comparatively easy to use. But so far, we can’t work with 3D content in three dimensions.

That’s about to change: using modeling tools and AR visualization, designers can actually manipulate in three dimensions. Which will go a long way to making 3D models mainstream, unlocking all kinds of use cases.

Who knows, maybe soon, we’ll have opt-in vandalism, where taggers add 3D objects to the real world for those who want to see them.


Augmented reality is getting a lot of attention in the media, but is often misunderstood. It’s only when you see examples that it really makes sense. This video demonstrates an impressive new application of the concept at the Wimbledon tennis championship in the UK.

With IBM’s new Seer 2010 app for iPhones and Androids you can simply point your phone at a court and get live video of the match being played there – effectively you can see through walls. You can also use the app to find food and drink stands or even get a live video view of the taxi queues.

It’s a great example of how augmented reality is already here today and making itself useful. You can read more here.


French company Parrot demonstrated this impressive piece of technology at Web 2.0 Expo this week. It’s a flying camera drone, that hovers and stabilizes itself automatically in flight, is wirelessly controlled by an iPhone just by tilting the phone, and streams live video back to the phone. It uses augmented reality to overlay game elements onto that video, making it a “video game for real life”. It’s incredible that technology like this is now available to the general public – at one time only the military could access such technology. What will people use these for? Will it reduce the privacy of governments and celebrities?


Welcome to posthumanity


We’re all getting an upgrade, whether we like it or not.

In a few years, every moment of our lives will be recorded, analyzed, and shared. We’ll take the sum of human knowledge for granted. We’ll wear tiny computers masquerading as fashion accessories. The merging of humans and technology is unavoidable, and the end result will be a new species able to hack its own cognition and edit its own biology.

This new species—call it Human 2.0—is the most important subject of the century. But it’s still hiding in academia and science fiction. We hope to change that. Read more »


This short (20 minute) film, “Play”, by David Kaplan and Eric Zimmerman, explores a world where the lines between augmented reality, virtual worlds and computer games have become so blurred that people begin to lose track of reality. Drawing on themes explored by films like The Matrix, Surrogates and Total Recall, this film is fascinating, thought-provoking and just a little disturbing.


For those who have been a part of the AR community since its infancy and those who are just entering the field, these are very exciting times. After decades of research, mass market AR applications are finally viable and can be delivered on a variety of platforms. If developers, investors, analysts, and consumers can develop a real understanding of what AR can and cannot do, the future of AR technology is bright, and I look forward to its evolution as an innovative and inspiring medium for creativity, communication, and commerce.

There’s a lot of news around Augmented Reality, fueled by a flurry of apps for location- and video-enabled smartphones like the Android and the iPhone. Here’s a good overview of how some of them are blending the world around us with the virtual world. Read the full article at

Image by Paolo Tonon


This concept video demonstrates a powerful application of augmented reality. With technology that exists today, retailers could bring their wares to your living room, solving one of online shopping’s biggest drawbacks – a flat 2D representation is often not enough to make product decisions. A 3D online furniture store could allow you to try out different furniture in the real physical space of your living room with minimal effort – something that both physical and online stores can’t currently do. You can read more about the video and how it was made on phedhex’s blog.


Human 2.0 is the Next Big Thing

We’re about to upgrade the human race. It’s more than a technology shift, it’s a cultural one. And it’s perhaps the first step on the singularity. This is most of what I’ve been thinking about lately. We’re sliding into it day by day, without noticing. I firmly believe it is the most significant change the human race faces, and it’s going to drive a tremendous amount of business and fuel wide-ranging ethical discussions. Most of the other technologies we cover here and elsewhere are simply building blocks for Human 2.0.

This is the first of many posts on the subject, and it sounds a bit muddy. Hopefully we can clarify that in the coming months. But if you’re willing to wade through some still-addled thinking, read on.

Read more »

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