Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Augmented Reality: What is it, and what can we do with it?

In the past two years we've seen an enormous boost in Virtual Worlds, using 3D visuals. They are not really 3D though, we've put the idea of a 3D environment into a flatscreen. Real 3D stuff is when you suddenly have holographic choppers flying around your head if you open up a lego box.

Below is a video of the BBC experimenting with Augmented Reality (and yes, it includes a chopper).

But what is Augmented Reality?

According to Wikipedia, Augmented Reality is...

Augmented reality (AR) is a field of computer research which deals with the combination of real-world and computer-generated data (virtual reality), where computer graphics objects are blended into real footage in real time. At present, most AR research is concerned with the use of live video imagery which is digitally processed and "augmented" by the addition of computer-generated graphics. Advanced research includes the use of motion-tracking data, fiducial markers recognition using machine vision, and the construction of controlled environments containing any number of sensors and actuators.

Ronald Azuma's definition of AR is one of the more focused descriptions. It covers a subset of AR's original goal, but it has come to be understood as representing the whole domain of AR: Augmented reality is an environment that includes both virtual reality and real-world elements. For instance, an AR user might wear translucent goggles; through these, he could see the real world, as well as computer-generated images projected on top of that world. Azuma defines an augmented reality system as one that

  1. combines real and virtual,
  2. is interactive in real-time,
  3. is registered in three dimensions.
This definition is now often used in some parts of the research literature (Azuma, 1997).

But what is it to you? What do you see as augmented reality, and what use does it have? Does it have any use, or is it just a plaything? What do you think? What would be usefull deployment in your line of work?

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Oriental Dispatch: ai sp@ce, iA, ARis

Konnichiwa(hello!). I picked up some interesting services in Japan.

ai sp@ce

Dwango, a game developer for mobilephones, has launched this week. "ai sp@ce" is a virtual world. It's kinda lobby for game lovers. You can't create buidings or clothings in this world, but create game-scenarios and can sell them. Quite interesting.


Sega, a famous videogame developer, is testing an avatar service called "iA(Internet Adventure)".

It's similar to weblin or RocketOn, but at iA, avatars appears on your desktop(like wallpaper). When you change URL of your web-broser, the place in iA will change automatically. I mean each URL has its own place.

iA is still in closed beta.


Last one is not a virtual-world-thing. But I guess many readers will have an interest in it.

"ARis" is kind of a virtual pet using Augumented Reality. A small girl appears on PC via web camera. You can poke her with sticks or give clothes.

Its price is 9800 yen(US$9.8 US$98.00). A little bit expensive?

UPDATE: Sorry, i made a mistake at the price of ARis. Thanks to shiela-san for letting me know that.

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Microsoft: 3D Future will be Photosynth

There's only one place to be for the techcrowd this week, and that's Amsterdam with the Eduverse Symposium on the 23rd followed by 3 days of PICNIC 08. It isn't the only event going on though, there's also the Emerging Technology Conference (in short EmTech) at the MIT Campus.

"Microsoft's Craig Mundie has dismissed the potential of "synthetic virtual worlds" like Second Life, saying that the potential for immersive environments will be likely realized through 3D tools that capture and model the real world.

Mundie, who oversees research and long-term strategy for Microsoft, devoted a significant portion of his "Rethinking Computing" presentation at MIT's Emerging Technology conference to what he called the "Spatial Web," a blend of 3D, video, and location-aware technologies. At the center of several of his demos was Photosynth, a Microsoft software tool that can create 3D models using 2D photographs taken with an ordinary digital camera. In one brief demo he showed how a small, camera-equipped robot could be used to model a large room. In another, he showed a 3D model of a commercial district in Seattle that had been created with Photosynth, and demonstrated how a virtual visitor could come to the district using the Internet, enter an art shop in the area, and examine and buy a virtual sculpture that had also been "photosynthed" by the shop clerks or the artist.

Mundie noted that Microsoft is counting on the creation of a 3D "parallel universe" modeled with tools like Photosynth. However, he dismissed the potential of social virtual worlds that include user-modeled objects. "Many people are familiar with Second Life, which is a synthetic virtual world that
people came quite enamored with," Mundie said. "Our view was that there was a fairly limited audience who was willing to deal with the construction of avatars and operating in that virtual space."

[read the full article at The Industry Standard]

I would go along with Mundie when it comes to short term vision -only to a certain extend though. I agree with the part that there is a huge market for the Paraverse, virtual worlds that mirror our own real world, and that these mirror worlds will be fit for business sooner that general VW's in all likelyhood when augmented reality kicks in.

Question is... will the dominant one be a Microsoft product? I would have been very surprised if Mundie would have said the future is in the hands of Google Earth, but I don't think Microsoft, despite Photosynth being a cool product, has what it takes at this time to be a thoughtleader in this area.

So, speaking off the next couple of years, he's right and the paraverse may get a bigger business crowd moving, but in the long run, I wouldn't put my money on Microsoft.

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Thursday, September 04, 2008

Can You See Me Now?

These days many of us are wondering what the real use of virtual worlds is. There's a slight shift towards augmented, or mixed reality. Mixed reality, in which the real world and the virtual come together isn't new. Have a look at this video.

"Can You See Me Now? is a game that happens simultaneously online and on the streets. Players from anywhere in the world can play online in a virtual city against members of Blast Theory. Tracked by satellites, Blast Theory's runners
appear online next to your player on a map of the city. On the streets, handheld computers showing the positions of online players guide the runners in tracking you down. "

This game dates back to 2001, there's more on Blast

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Friday, May 09, 2008

Me the Media - about me as well

Mid april the Sogeti Vint Institute released its latest book, called "Me the Media. Past, Present and Future of the Third Media Revolution".

VINT is Sogeti Group's New Technology Research Institute, founded as the Verkennings Instituut Nieuwe Technologie in the Netherlands in 1994. Currently VINT has offices in Amsterdam, Paris, Stockholm and Washington.

"Me the Media " investigates the exciting development of web media. It envisages a future of hyper-individualization, of ICTainment on top of ICTechnology, and of meaningful web conversations between organizations, customers and employees. Somewhere in the book you run into a picture of yours truly, both avatar and Real Life and referral to the MindBlizzard blog. On the Me The Media website you'll find a short outline of the book in English as well.

To get more info on the novel, sign up for the book presentation at the Vint Quarterly Technology Update in 't Spant in Bussum on May 13th.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Eduverse Symposium videos online

Finally... they're there. The online video's of the Eduverse Symposium.

"After a considerable amount of time transcoding, uploading and and messing with WP plugins, I have managed to get the entire first symposium parsed and online. The videos are viewable on the “Symposia” page"

If you can stand the sight of me, pay attention to the first intro video, titled "VJ's intro" where I try to start up the conversation on Education in Virtual Worlds. I'd advise you to pay close attention to Dr. Jay Bolter on Augmented Reality and Dr. D. Danforth on the Testis Tour.

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Friday, March 21, 2008

VeeJay goes OOC

Don't worry, I'm not getting OOC as in Out Of Character... just have to get Out Of Computer for the holidays. Be back after easter

I think I may have to talk and play with the kids face to face ;)

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Eduverse Symposium (1) Introduction

This weeks second cross reality event was held at the exact same spot (de Balie in Amsterdam )as the Fasion show in the previous blogpost. This time it was the massive Eduverse Symposium on Virtual Education.

I had the honour to kick off the 7 hour marathon session with a short introduction on the programme and a couple of brainwaves on virtual education in which I remarked that were still basically dealing with traditional forms of education (i.e. books and classrooms and stuff) which have been around since the 1700's while our life has become more and more digitized in the past ten years. All our ways of communicating, information gathering and learning experiences have been affected by technological advances, but it has barely hit the classroom yet. No wonder that 90% of everything we learn is learnt outside school in our private / social time. Teachers are no longer the authority when it comes to knowing things. They've been substituted by wikipedia.

On the other hand the amount of information we have to juggle is getting bigger and more complex every year. (read some thoughts here) so Education has a challenge. Today was about giving some demo's to get people inspired in thinking about Virtual Worlds as a tool in modelling complex issues and add some playfulklness along the way as well.

We had an impressive list of speakers who gave their pitches from the real life location, from Second Life and through Skype Video on a range of subjects, varying from technology updates to a philospophical session on why we have education anyway.

Augmented Reality

One of the Key Pitches today was in my opinion the one by Jay Bolter (a.k.a. James Lillenthal in SL) from Georgia Tech on augmented reality. At the GT they'd made a little lego room on a table, put a camera on it and we were able to walk into the video in Second Life.

3D Sperms

Another highlight in showing the potential of 3D environments in teaching complex matters was a demo by Dr. D. Danforth of the Ohio State University who build a model of how sperm grows. Apparently this is a very hard thing to explain and visualising this has greatly aided the students in understanding the process.

I'm kind of relying on Rick Cassini from Digado to (cross-)post more detailed information on the demo's.

We didn't fill the hall as much as we'd liked, but what can you expect when you organize an event like this on such short time notice. We got the idea only about two weeks ago. And aside from people being physically present, the event was streamed to about 10 SL locations to start with, each attracting a crows and ending up with about 20 locations as streams got added continuously. The event was also streamed to the web at Meta.Live.Nu and a full replay can be found here at de Balie archives.


A big thanks to Damien Simons of the UptheVortex blog for the pics, and to Bart Bockhoudt of the DutchExchange and DeBalie for sponsoring the event.

Another word of thanks goes to one of the speakers, Dr. Yesha Sivan (a.k.a. Dera Kit in SL) from the Shenkar College of Engineering and Design in Tel Aviv, Israel. He was kind enough to use the MindBlizzard blog as one of his sources in his presentation. It's a funny thing to see when you're in the audience, watching a presentation and suddenly recognise your own writing (though it isn't the first time it happened to me).

Just a quick overview of how widelyspread the symposium was:

The event will be streamed on the web at: (UK) (NL) and will be viewable afterwards from De Balie archives
The event will also be available to be seen live in Second Life at these locations:
Should you wish to stream it yourself, then it is possible using this url:
It will also be streamed live simultaneously with the following codecs for low speed internet connections: ( RealVideo) (Mp3 audio mono) > ( image refresh 'webcam')

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Thursday, January 24, 2008


Augmented Reality is something every geek has its opinion on. Dozens of researches spend millions of dollars on research how this augmentation will change our lives, how man and machine symbioses will improve our ways of working and which phsycological effects it will have.

Others just experiment, such as Tobias Lang. he displays how to merge 2 techniques, Virtual reality and Augmented reality, to create amazing Virtual World experiences

Sit back and enjoy.

Augmented Reality according to Wikipedia:

Augmented reality (AR) is a field of computer research which deals with the combination of real-world and computer-generated data. At present, most AR research is concerned with the use of live video imagery which is digitally processed and "augmented" by the addition of computer-generated graphics.

Advanced research includes the use of motion-tracking data, fiducial marker recognition using machine vision, and the construction of controlled environments containing any number of sensors and actuators.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Halting State

In real life I had a day off. Not to lean back, but to take care of the kids who were down sick. This afternoon when they were asleep I just had time to immerse and join the Information Week session on Dr. Dobbs island where Mitch Wagner, a.k.a. Ziggy Figaro interviewed SciFi author Charles Stross.

Stross has always known he wanted to be a Science Fiction writer and started writing in his early teens and sold his first bit of wordplay in 1986. After a few stories sold, the dip came and Charles went back to University (Bradford) and did a postgraduate in computer science and hopped from techjob to techjob slowly crawling towards Edinburgh and suddenly went into web consultancy - This was right about the time of the dot com crash (if not the cause to it). He managed to establish himself as a proper Linux and Free Software journalist until...

"Even more implausibly, after fifteen years of abject obscurity, his fiction
became an overnight success in the US, with five novel sales and several Hugo
nominations in the space of two years. "

Charles, or Charlie, talked about the world of 'Halting State', a world set in our near future where Metaverses and augmented reality are part of our daily routine. Mitch Wagner says:

It's really hard to predict the future on the scale Stross does. Imagine yourself in 1996. Back then, would you have predicted the ubiquity of smartphones, user-generated content on the Internet (blogs weren't even invented yet), Facebook, MySpace, the massive American entertainment industry grinding to a complete halt over a dispute over Internet video, and post-9/11 geopolitics? Could you have imagined, in your bones, what it would be like to live in that world?

One of the things Stross sees is that in a few years from now it'll be mobile all the way. A large percentage of the computers on the world right now are already cell-phones. In a few years they'll have gigs of bandwidth. As Dr. Dobbs was quite maxed out with visitors, we were all yearning for that extra bandwidth as Second Life almost came to a halting state with clothing taking its time to download, or just plainly go missing.

Unfortunately I had to take care of one of my kids, so couldn't keep track of all the exciting things and visions Charles shared with the crowd, you'd best check out the Ugotrade blog in a few days to find a smashing recap.

Read more on this session at Information Week here. Now I have to run to be on time for my own presentation on Second Life (in Dutch) at the NGI island (slurl).

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Designing the Future 1a

Last night I finally had time to slip into one of the Philips Design meetups. Due to scheduling issues I hadn't been able to attend before so I was glad I finally had the chance to meet up with the Philips Design Crew.

It was quite a session, over 2.5 hours of full-scale brainstorm on 3 topics, giving me over 14 pages of textlog to read back and condence. This will be a post in bits and pieces I think.

Don't predict the future, design it!

The sessions are titled "Designing the Future" and today's introduction was given by Centrasian Wise, one of Philips Design's inworld evangelists.

"We plan to have a series of interesting discussions with you and these discussions will be about …. the future! As we say in the panels at the top there, we don’t want to predict the future, we want to design it, or rather co-design it with people, with you.

In the next few months we will be holding a series of meetings here in SL to share our ideas and our work but also to learn what you think about them. The meeting today is an introduction to this new series."

Design Probes

Philips themselves have been thinking about the future themselves for some time now;

"Already for some years now Philips Design is carrying a design research program called Design Probes. It is an in-house future research program that explores what new lifestyles and people behaviors might emerge in the future and under 'future' we mean 2020 for these discussions. This program was set up to identify long term social changes and to anticipate changes in future lifestyles. It's far enough to already expect changes, but still foreseable.
So, we study new and emerging technology, socio-cultural trends and possible effects of political, economic and environmental changes.
Based on this knowledge, we then design a number of ‘probes’, or visionary concepts we call 'Probes'.
They reflect our understanding of potential futures, but also provoke and challenge existing assumptions. For example, our Design Probe Program wants to challenges the notion that our lives are automatically better because they are more digital.So, In the coming weeks we will present some of the results of this program."

Since Philips is a technology and digital gadgetting firm, that last remark shouts profit driven motivation. Or is there a more social spark driving the Probes?

"You'll have to see in the coming weeks whether it is technology-drive or people-driven :)."

Just like any good traditional sermon, this brainstorm session came in three topics:

  1. The future of self-expression
  2. The future of packaging
  3. The future of clothing

Where does it all lead to? Is Philips going into virtual clothing business in Second Life, or are we up to new and exciting adventures with self-thinking or self-guiding boots?

The Future of Self-Expression

After the the introduction the group split into three smaller groups for some severe brainstorming, almost good enough to call it a MindBlizzard. My little group saw Centrasian himself als moderator and also consisted of Ugotrade blogger Tara5 Oh and Implenia / EOLUS founder and thoughtleader Eolus McMillan and several other residents with backgrounds in Design and Technology as well. This made up for the producing end of the chain, it would have been good to see some from the receiving end (i.e. consumers) in there, so I went a little into skeptical mode.

The question at hand is how technology can augment our senses and the senses of those we communicate and interact with.

The discussion spiraled down to sensor technologies, or as Tara put it:

"I am particularly interested about how sensor/actuator networkscan enhance self expression in hyper connected eletronic environment s in new ways. By that I mean how can the kind of emotional bandwidth these kind of sensor technologies bring to communication be integrated into an immersive social networking environment like SL..... phew that is a bit long winded! But reall what are the interesting ways biometric sensors can be introduced into networked virtual environments?"

Now we don't have to get all creepy about Matrix-like plugins or neuropods from Tad William's Otherland series, or Neil Stephenson's Snowcrash visors. Here's some of the discussion:

[12:11] Tara5 Oh: but id i can't say it here where can I!
[12:11] Centrasian Wise: But would happen if we would add ‘sensing technology’ to our bodies?
[12:12] Centrasian Wise: Enhance it? Amplify?
[12:12] Una Gackt: I hope it would not be our body, but thinking things.
[12:12] Tara5 Oh: well I like the idea of the mutual enhancement of virtual and real environment through biometric sensors could be quite simple
[12:13] Tara5 Oh: like communicating the way you are feeling to a group on online friends
[12:13] Tara5 Oh: could be quite complex and move into the extreme life logging area
[12:13] Centrasian Wise: Like, to show your emotional state?
[12:13] Eolus McMillan: hehe to apply the expression in RL to your avatar in sL
[12:13] Tara5 Oh: yes!
[12:14] Tara5 Oh: and then combine that with some of the special communicative qualities of this eletronice environment

Well that's all folks for today. I'll have to find some time to put up the other two topics, which partly intertwine with the above discussion.

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