Friday, January 15, 2010

Augmented Training with Lego

Yesterday I saw a neat video on Augmented Reality using Lego at Games Alfresco

Homo sapiens are visual creatures. We receive 75% of our information through our eyes. Explaining how to do something can be tedious and inefficient. Augmented reality offers a visual medium for explanation. This quick demo on how to assemble a LEGO tower using ARToolKit illustrates how effective this technique can be. If you don’t believe me, give a friend a pile of LEGOs and then try to explain how to create the tower in the video. Time your result and compare it. I’ll guarantee the AR method will win.

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Educational Shift Happens

This afternoon I was honored to give a masterclass at the Christian University of Applied Sciences in Ede, the CHE, on the future of Education. In this masterclass I gave an overview of new technology, such as virtual worlds and augmented reality and how it will change the future of education.

To most readers of this blog, Virtual Worlds aren't new anymore, but it was too the students, future teachers. To get into the right frameset I started off with the famous video "Did you know - Shift Happens" by Karl Fish. It's always a good teaser to get the imagination going.

I think it is very important to future teachers to know what new technology is out there. I used to be one. When I was teaching, they always told me my students could not focus for 1 hour and you had to temporize your classes. Same happens when you get to church. Sermons shouldn't last too long, because our attention span is too short. Well, that's bull...

Kids growing up in these days grow up being used to massive amounts of information, able to handle multiple information streams simultaneously. It is all about captivating them, challenging them and that is what often lacks in schools. Children stop learning when they get to school. Once back home they turn on their computers and start learning again, according to some studies. I think these researchers have a point. We can use the games of Neopets or whichever kidworld and use it in the classroom to teach mathematics. We can use Google Earth and Rome Reborn to teach Geography and History instead of using old maps. These are the media they are used to.

Finalising my masterclass I zoomed in on Augmented Reality. One of the things I brought with me was the freshly published English version of "Me the Media" by ViNT, Sogeti's research institute. It was so fresh that the book I brought with me was actually the first to leave the office. I drove upto the office to pick it up as it had just been deliverd by the publisher today. It has an extensive section on Augmented Reality and it was fun to live demonstrate the cool tricks.

Last video I included in the presentation was on the Future of Education, an Italian video on Augmented reality which really show the opportunities this technology has in education.

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Monday, January 12, 2009

Virtual Actors replace Humans in Hollywood?

If you run a movie studio and run short of money to hire a hot shot actor for a couple of million dollars, you can always have a few cartoonists draw in a funny character and you'll get something like "Who framed Roger Rabbit"

If you've got some extra bucks to throw in, you can use several advanced techniques to create stunning special effects and you get Terminator III", or "Lord of the Rings""and every one gets wowy and throws in a few Oscars. In short, the business has come a long way since the cheap B-movies of the 80's dealing with virtual reality. But is the industry ready for a next leap? The technology to pull it of is in our hands now.

Robert Scoble just wrote an interesting blog about this (with videos):

One of the most interesting conversations I had at the Consumer Electronics Show last week was with Charlie Boswell of AMD. He works with movie companies to implement the data centers that they need to build movies of the future and he told me about this new technology, called “Light Stage” which lets movie companies capture human actors and then change their images into software-controlled “virtual actors.”

Until now this technology looked cheesy. But no longer. You probably have already seen virtual actors in movies and haven’t realized it (all done with Light Stage).

Here’s the two videos so you can see how movies are changing.

  1. Charlie Boswell, who has the coolest job at AMD, working with movie studios to make special effects where he talks to me about what he’s working on and tells me about Light Stage. If you are into movies, he talks to me about a bunch of movie houses and how they are using technology.
  2. Jules Orbach, CEO of Light Stage/OTOY, showing me some clips of what these virtual actors can do. He was also up on stage during the AMD keynote and Barron’s Online has a live blog of that. On stage AMD and OTOY announced they were working on the fastest supercomputer ever.

Anyway, it’s interesting to see how technology continues to change our movies. Boswell blows my mind when he says this technology will soon be affordable for everyone (soon being years, not decades).

Are you ready?

Are we ready? Yes, but it needs to be a way lot better then the Second Life adventures of CSI for instance.

Are we ready? Well, we're constantly being fooled by Hollywood so what's the big difference? If we take this step it's a bit like "S1m0ne" come true, the film with Al Pacino who fools the world with a virtual actress, or on the darker side a Robert DeNiro movie "Wag the Dog" where he also plays a Hollywood director staging a fake war to help the president get reelected.

UPDATE: Afterthought

As an afterthought...

Are we ready? Yes we're gonna take it hook line and sinker. We even get fooled with virtual actors in virtual worlds! In april 2007 world famous Director Paul Verhoeven held virtual auditions inside Second Life for his movie Zwartboek II. Afterwards I did an 'exclusive interview' with this tech savvy Director who was of the opinion that Virtual Worlds would certainly have added value to Moviemaking.

I didn't disclose this earlier, but soon afterwards I found out that although it was an official Zwartbook promotion, Paul Verhoeven never came near to watching the actual auditions let alone immerse himself into Second Life. Talking about virtual actors taking over...

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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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