I’ve been visualising this sort of app since like 2005, but Wikitude have finally cracked it open to the public.
This is a way to navigate (say while driving, as shown in the video below) using augmented reality, that literally draws a line in your phone viewfinder connecting you to your destination. The nice added touch here is a graphic view showing the basic overall route. Neatly merging the virtual with the real.
This is something that could be applied to practically any scale of navigation, down to alternate fuel-efficient routes and interactive traffic analysis (lol next year!)
Their press release:
Wikitude Drive, the first mobile Augmented Reality (AR) satellite navigation system with global coverage, launches for test drivers.
Salzburg, May 20, 2010. Wikitude Drive, the Grand Prize Winner of the Global Navteq LBS Challenge 2010 at Mobile World Congress last February in Barcelona, transforms your Android smartphone into a mobile navigation system looking a bit like something out of a science fiction movie…
Driving directions not only appear on screen, they are overlaid on the live video stream of the very street you are driving on. As a result, you are seeing the real world and real road in front of you, while being directed by a digital route on top of it.
Never take your eyes off the road again
Wikitude Drive distinguishes itself from other navigation systems in two ways:
First, due to the overlaying of the route onto the live video stream of the surroundings, the driver can easily recognize and follow the suggested route. Instead of looking at an abstract map you are looking at the real world. The navigation system leads the driver through unfamiliar territory in a natural, real and easy way.
Secondly, Wikitude Drive solves a key problem that all other navigation systems have. These systems require the driver to take his eyes off the road in order to look at the abstract navigation map. Just by looking at the map screen for one second when driving at 100 km/h (62 mph), the driver is actually “blind” for 28 meters (92 ft). Think about how much can happen in those precious meters. Since Wikitude Drive provides you with driving directions on top of the live video stream, you still see what is happening in front of you when looking at the display of your mobile AR navigation system.
In some driving conditions however, for example when driving in the dark, a traditional map is in fact advantageous. With just one tap on the cell phone’s touch screen, you can switch between the Augmented Reality view and the traditional 3D map-view. To give you additional navigational directions, voice commands are provided as well.
Navigational data comes from Navteq, a global supplier of mapping and routing information. A future version of Wikitude Drive will integrate with Wikitude World Browser to offer millions of Points of Interests to leverage the full power of the Internet and user generated content.
Looking for Test Drivers – Community Feedback Wanted
On May 20, 2010, during Google I/O, the Google Developers Conference in San Francisco, Wikitude Drive (beta) will be available in the Android Market for 2000 test drivers based in the US, starting 10am, PST.
During this beta phase, the development team is looking valuable feedback from the community. Please send your responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wikitude Press Releases: http://www.wikitude.org/category/pressreleases
Wikitude Drive (beta) is fully functional and offers following features:
Here’s an interesting one. Tissot, maker of fabulous Swiss timepieces, have come up with a downloadable AR app that lets you try on their watches from the comfort of your home.
Their site lets you download a custom marker, wear it like a wristwatch and test out all their products online. Check out the video below for an idea of how it works.
Try it out for yourself. You need a printer and a webcam, plus a decent connection and a little time. Still downloading on my machine here…
Is it too early to say that augmented reality has jumped the shark? Probably, but now that UK laydee’s mag Grazia has done a “3D issue” with pop-twiglet Florence and the Machine dancing across the cover, we’re officially On Watch.
The AR codes are on the cover and throughout the magazine, and can be activated by holding it up to a webcam or Grazia’s iPhone app. Then, Florence Welch from musical act Florence and the Machine will dance and sing along to single You’ve Got The Love, and the latest fashions will be modeled in 360-degree views. Form an orderly queue for the lavender calf-leather gloves, Gizmodo men. [Gizmodo via Grazia via Guardian via FabSugar UK]
Apr 28 2010
One of the more interesting applications of mixed reality and motion tracking is viewable on the Iron Man 2 website:
This uses a small downloadable to allow you to view the world through and using Iron Man’s ubercool helmet and HUD, and send it to the social network of your choice.
Check it out
Apr 22 2010
It’s quite mystifying, that so few people are trying to get virtual worlds to work from within web browsers. The basic problem with a virtual world like Second Life, or a similar platform like OpenSim, need the user to create an identity and download a 3D viewer (varying in size from 8 MB to 20 MB) in order to get into the world or grid.
3DXplorer by Altadyn Systems of France is a browser-based Web3D platform that uses Java 3D as its engine. Since Java runtimes are installed by number of web applications, there is a high chance that these 3D sites can run without the need to install any third-party plugins or viewers. These Web3D spaces are fundamentally different from a grid paradigm like SL since each link is essentially a different space, similar to pages in a website.
The basic experience is very different from that of SL or OS. Movement is via arrow keys, you need to click and drag your mouse around the screen to look around. Objects have some level of programmable interactivity (ie, you can open doors etc.) and you can have ambient sounds as well as things like video links and slideshows.
Some things are really well thought out. For one thing, visitors can sign in as ‘guests’ with only a name needed to identify them. In case you want a customizable avatar (they haven’t really got many options yet though,) you can log in to the 3DXplorer site, where you get the option of having a number of avatars as well as building spaces if you get the urge.
A 3DXplorer space is not difficult to construct, either. They have a number of predefined ‘scenes’ in the editor, and you can have multiple projects even as a free user. I have about fifty at present, but more are possible and indeed, getting added practically once a week. Paying customers get various levels of additional functionality, such as conferencing and seminar setups, presentation tools, desktop sharing- right up to custom enterprise solutions on cloud servers. What I like is that they have something for pretty much everyone, and free users get all the basic functionalities plus the option to set up their own private spaces.
One this sets them apart from pretty much all the other virtual and Web3D platforms I’ve used- it allows native import of 3D models into a 3DXplorer scene in 3DS, OBJ and DAE formats. Of course, you can’t put in just any old hugely complex 3DS export and expect it to work- 3DX has some upper limits and recommended number of polygons- what we’ve come to realize is that making models for this platform takes as much creativity in optimization as does any other virtual paradigm, since ultimately your model will be streamed to the user’s machine. If it is a 1:1 scale Eiffel Tower replica for instance, (and believe me we’ve tried this) it will take a huge time to load, and the lag will be terrible.
Basically, the ideal use for this platform is if one just wants to set up a simple 3D space and embed it in one’s website, without going through the whole registration process and learning curve that virtual worlds like Second Life make one undergo. Simple, in this case, really does work.
Apr 13 2010
Changing the way we look at computing in the real world.
A few months ago, I saw something that may well change the face of augmented reality and digital interaction with the real world as we know it. A lot of people are saying this, I know, but Sixth Sense by Pranav Mistry is definitely one of the most creative paradigm shifts I have seen in the field of computing.
Wearable computing has been around for a while now. But this device takes it to a completely new level. The basic idea is that it is a small…thing…you wear around your neck, like a super pendant. It contains a picoprojector and a webcam and a couple of other devices. It basically reads four small colored markers placed on your fingers and the software detects what they are doing at any given time, projects an image on to any surface you’re standing in front of, and interacts with the way your hands move. What this results in is sheer magic. Computing taken to the real world and then some. Or as the inventor himself says, imagination is the only limit to what can be done with this device, which costs about fifteen thousand rupees or so and can be built out of existing mobile components.
Pranav’s had fun with this, as this video shows. I’m sure pretty much anyone presented with this kind of technology would find unique ways to use it. Check out the videos on his site, which also has all his projects (Sixth sense has its own website btw,) and you’ll be as convinced as I am that the man is fully on to something. Bringing the digital into the real.
What interests me more is the software and the thinking behind the almost-intuitive recognition the camera instantly makes with the scene (both real and projected) in front of it. Face, gesture, surface and image/visual recognition. Is this for real? Apparently so.
And the fact that the man has engendered a paradigm shift and thrown it open to the public. As in, he’s made it and wants you to see what you can do with it. While you’re at it, please check out some of his other projects as well. We’re on the drawing board already with what impact this could have on our virtual worlds and AR experiences. And thanking him for the inspiration and fun this causes.
Apr 13 2010
Virtual worlds are all over the place, nowadays. There are literally hundreds of them now, a couple even here in India as of recent times.
The Metaverse has expanded into the Multiverse…
What all these virtual worlds have in common is the avatar. A virtual representation of your real self (or not, depending on the level of fantasy and roleplay you’re currently into- I prefer a ten-foot cyborg avatar myself)
There’s a new site that takes this concept and knocks it out of the park. Evolver lets you make your own avatar, from a photo if you want him/her/it/cat to look like you, or a builder that lets you play God with your little homunculus. More than that, it allows you to export said miniature to the virtual world of your choice, or as a 3D mesh to play around with as you please (hmm…)
Being a virtual world enthusiast, I can show you my side of the problem. Admittedly, its a bit extreme, since I’ve had to create avatars pretty much from scratch on every virtual world, 3D modeler, multiplayer and console game, web3D spaces and even websites. Even the numerous social networking platforms and member-based sites I’m on have required an avatar of some sort. It does tend to get tedious, whether it’s making a base level avatar or your own super cool stunning flying diamond thing.
So why not stay with the default avatar?
Well, the problem lies in the fact that in pretty much every multiplayer environment, there tend to be a lot of default avatars. There’s something mildly horrifying being in even a virtual space with many clones of yourself walking around. So it’s a natural thing to want to stand out just a little bit from identical others, if even a change of clothing or accessories.
So say you have a favored avatar in Second Life, whose appearance you’ve spent many hours inworld customizing to just that level of sophisticated elegance (or robotic splendor, or furry furrpection- express yourself! lol) you really like, and then you have to do it all over again in OpenSim, 3DXplorer, ExitReality, etc. etc.
Evolver solves these problems very neatly. What I like best is that you can just play around with the interface without registering, and there is a nice balance between what the general public gets (play around), the registered users get (save, multiple avatars etc) and what paying customers get (full export, 3D meshes, the works)
So as a registered user, I can create avatars and clones (avatars from photos), clothing, even basic accessories. And export them to the social network, 3D world, modeling tool (and hopefully, game soon,) of my choice. They have an option called ‘Transport’ that lets you shoot the avatar of your choice to multiple platforms, as an image, animation or mesh.
Speaking of evolutions, look at where the site itself has gone. I’d met Tim Blagden of Evolver, last year in connection with a virtual world project, we had a fascinating conversation via Skype about where this tech could possibly go. And I think it’s gone a light-year since then. The interface is highly visual, even the casual visitor is given every chance to simply play around with the multitude of options. Further, my hatred for constantly having to re-register at every site that has anything of interest is well known by now. So here we have the option of logging in via Facebook, OpenID, Friendster, and others, as well as registering with your email ID if you wish. Very nice.
This team has made an effort to make it super easy for people to just get to where they want. Create an avatar, upload it to platform of your choice, and that’s it. Job done.
Why this rocks…
Well basically, this web application bridges a gap. We are all heading toward a situation where the average web user is aware of and uses 3D virtual worlds and spaces, and the concept of an avatar as a digital extension of one’s self is grasped. Here. you can make a fully realistic, textured representation of yourself with less than an hour of effort and take it with you to the virtual world of your choice. Evolver offers convenience, a space where one can store one’s basic identity and retain it within multiple worlds and even web platforms.
…and they’re right. There’s nothing like this on the web at the moment. This is one of those ideas that is so simple that only a genius could have thought of it. Take a bow, guys
So, my personal art gallery is up and running on this blog.
I used a plugin called ‘Fotobook’ that lets you plug in your Facebook galleries right into your WordPress blog. Come to think of it, Facebook contains a whole lot more artwork than my online gallery on DeviantArt now.
Yesterday, my friend Sunil and I opened a six-foot long carton containing a huge amount of art I did when in NID. Looking back, some of it is pretty display-able and sometimes quite funny. Now, I should stop being lazy and code in a picture gallery that has all it’s art within the Trimensions site as well. Let’s face it, I’ve done a metric tonne of work over the last decade and a half, most of it analog and on paper. Note that I am someone who discovered computing in 2000 lol. After having one single class involving computers (a 1-week course in AutoCAD I mostly avoided for one reason or the other,) I decided to teach myself computing all over again (given that my last serious interaction with code had been a Sinclair Spectrum in the early eighties lol) and did so.
Blogging is proving especially difficult, though. I understand one is supposed to put in about an entry or a few every day. Hm. On the other hand, though, if my friends Sunil and Lo follow through on their promises of helping me select among the hundreds of recently unearthed documents a few that are worthy of digitizing and exhibiting, this space might see much more content coming in after a very short time.
Besides long-lost predip panels (ask anyone from NID what that means) I discovered a number of other gems that detailed out our early years of Metaverse development and the excitement and passion that emerged when working out the application of this tremendous new technology. since this is like 5 notebooks full of notes, thoughts and calculations, it would make this blog very boring. I’ll scan the sketchy bits though.
Blog? I managed to wipe out my entire site in one click! I’ll begin with a moral for this story-
Be wary of how sometimes the fingers can move faster than the brain. When it comes to repetitive actions. Lesson learned.
Background: It is important to note in this context that my mom’s birthday was coming up. I’d been hard at work making her all new site with shopping cart, spent most of the last week figuring out how to transfer VirtueMart databases from a Joomla 1x to 1.5x site. By no means an easy process, and one that has been a cause of immense frustration practically the whole of last year. Two days before her birthday, had finally cracked it and was busily making all the other thousand refinements that occur during website migration and new design.
Moral #1: ALWAYS back it up.
Although I do make it a habit to take regular backups, this site and blog plus a couple of other subdomains I’d set up, were done in Jan when my last backup of the site was 11 dec (c’mon- my root directory has some 400 MB of stuff in it, including a bunch of Joomla installs, downloadable stff etc…it was a pain so hey do it once a month-ish)
That day, my sister Nikki was over, she needed some help with a site she and my brother-in-law Amar are setting up. She’d been doing the content upload on a localhost Joomla install I’d put into her Mac, and I’d figured it’d be easier if the site was online so that I could edit it without her having to bring her machine over every time. So, we sat and set it up. With my recent experiences with Mom’s site, transferring all the content and databases was a breeze.
Now, once we’d figured out templates, modules etc etc it occurred to me that she’d have no way to bulk-upload the site images from her machine, so naturally I set up her FTP account via CPanel. To my annoyance, I discovered I’d forgotten to set it to the root directory of her site, it had defaulted to another path. Deleted it, set up another, giving her access this time to /public_html (the root of Trimensions.org) but forgetting to point to their subdomain. Twice as annoyed, I set about deleting that account as well.
Brain speed=60 : Finger speed=100
I forgot one tiny little detail. The ‘Delete FTP account’ page asks you if you want to delete just the account, or all the folders within it. Guess what button I pressed.
Bye bye root directory. We’ll miss you.
Naturally, for the first 12.657 microseconds I was frozen in shock.
My thoughts in the next two seconds went something like this-
-Shitshitshit where’s the cancel button? No cancel button. Fingers have already hit ‘back’ by now. Is there any way to override this? None that I can think of. Close the browser? Right, idiot. Think. Cpanel override command? Would take too long. Did I take a Cpanel backup? Hell it’s been a month. OMG Mom’s site!! Shit. The blog. Amul. Damn man do something, microseconds are passing and all your files are being deleted. Hit the ‘escape’ key dude and hope…
…at which point, two things happen.
-Nikki turns around and says, “Bhai, the site’s not working”
-And I get a ‘delete account-success’ message.
I’m still stunned. Check my site. All gone. Check CPanel trash. empty. Somewhere in the middle of this, Nikki left quietly for parents’ place, figuring (correctly) that I was in no shape to continue with her site. Very accurately, since I’d just managed to delete it with the rest of my root folder. Thought of calling Prabudh over at GoHindi (who host Trimensions) to ask him if anything was possible, decided to see what I could do first instead. So, started checking out my backups. Realized that actually, it was only Mom, Nikki, Amul and this blog that were affected. And then realized that all their databases were still intact. None of the really difficult work I’d done was affected, actually.
On the other hand, I did have to re-upload almost 400 MB worth of data, including the Trimensions site and all its virtual spaces. And work day and night to re-make mom’s site from scratch before her birthday. Finally finished at 6:30 AM on the 29th, to show it to her a few hours later. And hey, my root directory is a lot cleaner than it used to be, and this blog is back up, so no real harm done. Some serious adrenaline though. Phew.