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Augmented Reality

This learning journey was written and curated by AmbITion Scotland lead consultant, Hannah Rudman.

Augmented RealityIt is a beginners’ guide to the the technology that merges – on screens – textual and photographic information, or 3D graphics and video with real-world elements. Augmenting, or adding layers of data, from the internet or a local data network, to reality – augmented reality (or AR). It’s an interactive experience that you interactive with on a screen, that features a real-time merge between live video flow, 3D graphics, or textual or pictorial data; and view of something real that you’re pointing a camera at. Some AR requires a specific visual marker like a QR code, that users hold up to a camera to cue up the technology.
Google GlassAugmented reality technology has seen increased use and in marketing and advertising media, and in education settings, such as museums and galleries, text books, and catalogues. It’s a technology that previously seemed to teeter between being a useful consumer engagement tool and cool-yet-useless gimmick.
But now with the widespread use of smartphones that have all of the GPS compasses and transmitters, cameras, data connections, great resolution screens, and computation power and software required, augmented reality is coming of age. Google Glass – a wearable headmounted display – of course brings the screens that are needed even closer to the eye!
The two most common ways to build AR experiences are Flash-based, primarily open-source applications such as Mixare or OpenSpace3D; or the specially created turnkey software programmes that often require a specific application to run, such as Aurasma (now acquired by HP), and require a fairly high level of programming knowledge to create. If you’re a confident digital media, used to HTML and CSS and comfortable with digital photography and video, then you could have a go at creating your own Augmented Reality experiences, otherwise, my advice is to work with digital developers who can do that for you. You just have to come up with an engaging experience, and the assets to overlay!

1 Beginner's Guide to Augmented Reality

This brilliant introduction from the fabulous folk at Common Craft is a great 2 minute watch to help you understand the basics of augmented reality, or AR.

What is augmented reality?

Here’s the best introduction to the basics I could find: the wonderful Common Craft folk explain clearly, in this animated video, augmented reality.

This is the transcript of the video they kindly provide for brilliant accessibility:

“I think we can all agree that reality is pretty great. It’s what we experience through our senses like our eyes, and phones with cameras. The Internet is awesome too, but the Internet and reality have a hard time working together. Thankfully this is changing quickly. New tools mean that the world around you can now be seen with a layer of new information from the Internet.

Let’s start with an example. If you’ve ever seen a movie with a fighter pilot, you’ve seen the pilot’s view from the cockpit – but something’s missing.
The pilot needs a layer of information that adds useful items to his view of reality. Recently, this kind of layer started working on your smartphone. But instead of flight data, you have data about the world around you. It’s Augmented Reality.

Let’s say you’re hungry and at a busy intersection. There are multiple restaurants around you, but you don’t know where they are or which one is the best. You could look up each one on a computer, or just take your chances.

But now, thanks to new software on mobile phones, you can simply point your phone’s camera at buildings around you and voila! Restaurants are magically highlighted and a layer of information about the restaurant appears on the screen.

Another example is shopping. You can point your camera at a product and see a layer of information about it, like prices of the same product at other stores in the area or on the Internet.

And this functionality only requires a few things. First, a smartphone with a camera to capture reality. Second, a connection to the Internet for receiving the layer of information. Third, software on your phone to bring it all together. It also helps to have a phone with GPS and a compass so it knows which direction you’re facing.

Augmented reality can also work with a camera attached to your computer. You can hold products in front of the camera and see a layer of information on your screen that makes reality more interesting and even fun.

These examples are just the beginning. In the future, you may wear glasses that have a tiny display that you can see while walking. As you walk by stores, buildings, people and products, this screen displays information from sites like Wikipedia or Google. Suddenly your reality is richer and more interesting.
It’s coming, but augmented reality has a long way to go. Keep your eye out for ways that augmented reality adds layers of information to your reality.”

THANKS Common Craft

2 Video and graphics AR examples

These examples are AR experiences that blend video, or 3D graphics with the real world. They use turnkey softwares to achieve the results, such as Aurasma (now acquired by HP). Watch and be wowed!

Augmented reality – video and 3D graphics examples

These are examples of AR experiments that blend with reality. In a demo that drew gasps at TED2010, Blaise Aguera y Arcas demos new augmented-reality mapping technology from Microsoft.

 

 

and 3D graphics and sound, from Aurasma, starring Robbie Burns!

 

3 Participating with AR

This talk and demo was a part of the 2012 Turing Festival that AmbITion webcast. Imagine this participative augmented reality technology in the hands of cultural organisations (that can think of better ideas to show off the engagement potential than trying on nail varnish!! or is that just me?)

4 Manipulate Festival - marketing brochure & AR

And here’s one of those better examples! One of the limitations around a paper marketing brochure is that that it can’t show or tell you how attending an event will feel. A more multisensory experience can though, and the Manipulate Festival of Visual Theatre, produced by Puppet Animation Scotland, have a great case study. This case study video of the brochure for a festival which shows innovative international theatre and film, have used an augmented reality (AR) platform called Layar to bring their paper brochure to life. It is hard to market intangible experiences like live events, so AR has exciting potential to help the arts, cultural and heritage sector do it well.

Augmented Reality Brochures: Manipulate Festival of Visual Theatre video showcase

One of the limitations around a paper marketing brochure is that that it can’t show or tell you how attending an event will feel. A more multisensory experience can though, and the Manipulate Festival of Visual Theatre, which shows innovative international theatre and film, have used an augmented reality (AR) platform called Layar to bring their paper brochure to life. It is hard to market intangible experiences like live events, so AR has exciting potential to help the arts, cultural and heritage sector do it well.

 

5 Wearable computing - the breakthrough for AR?

Wearable computing devices are emerging as potentially the way that augmented reality will massively take off. Read this article for an insight into how and what wearable computing might mean for AR. Also check out John Naughton of The Observer’s critique, and Wired’s short review of “Glassware” – the collective term for apps for Glass!

(Also, do catch up on this comedy viral video on how not to be a “Glasshole” – you’ve been advised!)

Augmented reality – will wearable computing help it take off in a big way?

Sir Tim Berners Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web thinks that there is a third iteration of the web emerging: (web 3.0?!) big data, wearable computing, the internet of things, and 3D printing are all a part of the wave of emerging technologies that once again will disrupt where we’re at now and make a step change in our world (think of the impact on our lives of the social two-way technologies of web 2.0).

The new wearable computing screens, such as Google Glass, may well help the established technology of augmented reality (or AR) take off. Although currently limited to about 1000 sets of prototype spectacle-like head mounted sets, they’re likely to go on mass sale next year. I for one will be wanting a pair of smart glasses! The official trailer for Glass has so far been viewed over 20m times, so I guess I’m not alone!

It’s easy to see from the trailer how augmented reality will enhance our lives. Admittedly, I don’t ice sculpt or trapeze as much as the people in the ad, so having extra functionality around those activities isn’t of that much interest. But I could receive live directions, take and receive photos and video, have real-time information overlaid on things I’m looking at, chat, translate foreign languages – all instantaneously and effortlessly – this could get AR into the hands of everyone.

Already, the military and medical professions use head mounted sets that are AR capable to receive more and better information about what they are seeing and doing.

Of course, there are worries about how ever more intimate and intrusive the digital world becomes, and about how much we’re offloading onto the internet, and pulling from it – if I can pull a piece of information into my line of sight when I need it, why bother conscientiously remembering it? Will I become too compulsively dependent on being connected? What about if the data I was seeing was hacked? Would my smart glasses be being used to collect data for e.g. Google?

Simultaneously, its easy to see that removing from your person the interface of the device that you must carry round to access, record and compute data, and making it a part of you – through a wearable accessory – is extremely compelling (even more compelling if that accessory is invisible, such as a contact lens). A transparent heads-up display that helps you engage MORE with the world around you, rather than sucking you away from reality via a screen on a device.

Although I already chunter to myself, Glass is operated and navigated by spoken commands, and so out in public, we’re going to have to get used to people verbally instructing their wearable devices. There are other social issues too, such as how to deal with the darker side of the web such as porn, privacy infringements, and intrusive advertising still needing to be cleared up too.

To learn more about augmented reality, why not take AmbITion’s Augmented Reality Learning Journey.

6 Masterclass - Museum of London and Linknode

This masterclass, now available on demand, was an introduction to Augmented Reality. Hannah Rudman introduced the question – What is AR? What are the opportunities of it? Why is it of use to cultural, arts and heritage organisations, practices and individuals? How can we use it to better deliver our missions, products and experiences digitally? Whatever cultural form you work with, if you create or curate live or written cultural experiences, you’ll be able to engage with the emerging potential of using augmented reality to help deepen participation with your cultural and artistic products and experiences.

Antony Robbins, Director of Communications at the Museum of London since July 2009 gave an insightful talk on the opportunities that Museum of London experienced.  He oversaw the You are Here PR campaign for the launch of the museum’s £21m Galleries of Modern London. This campaign included the development of ‘Street Museum’. This was the Museum of London’s first ever Smartphone app. It’s the museum in your pocket uniting over 250 images in the museum’s collection with their actual locations across the capital. The app has now been downloaded over 350,000 times. It set the benchmark for the use of augmented reality by UK culture and heritage bodies.

After completing a Geomatics degree and PhD (Large-Scales Spatial Data Management) at the University of Newcastle Upon Tyne, Crispin Hoult moved to Scotland to i manage, IME UK Ltd delivering innovative desktop- and web- based mapping systems. In 2011 Crispin returned to small business to set-up Linknode Ltd: integrating mobile geospatial with 3D gaming technologies for visualisation and augmented reality for the environmental, renewables, security, museums and culture & heritage sectors. Crispin also explained the notions of GIality and near field communications (NFC), as well as providing depth of thinking on the opportunities of AR.

Augmented Reality: an introduction to AR – a masterclass on demand

This masterclass, now available on demand, was an introduction  to Augmented Reality. What is AR? What are the opportunities of it? Why is it of use to cultural, arts and heritage organisations, practices and individuals? How can we use it to better deliver our missions, products and experiences digitally? Whatever cultural form you work with, if you create or curate live or written cultural experiences, you’ll be able to engage with the emerging potential of using augmented reality to help deepen participation with your cultural and artistic products and experiences. Watch this content, and take AmbITion’s Learning Journey on Augmented Reality.

Hannah Rudman introduced the topic, and gave an update on AmbITion Scotland opportunities.

Antony Robbins, Director of Communications at the Museum of London since July 2009 gave an insightful talk on the opportunities that Museum of london experienced.  He oversaw the You are Here PR campaign for the launch of the museum’s £21m Galleries of Modern London. This campaign included the development of ‘Street Museum’. This was the Museum of London’s first ever Smartphone app. It’s the museum in your pocket uniting over 250 images in the museum’s collection with their actual locations across the capital. The app has now been downloaded over 350,000 times. It set the benchmark for the use of augmented reality by UK culture and heritage bodies.

After completing a Geomatics degree and PhD (Large-Scales Spatial Data Management) at the University of Newcastle Upon Tyne, Crispin Hoult moved to Scotland to i manage, IME UK Ltd delivering innovative desktop- and web- based mapping systems. In 2011 Crispin returned to small business to set-up Linknode Ltd: integrating mobile geospatial with 3D gaming technologies for visualisation and augmented reality for the environmental, renewables, security, museums and culture & heritage sectors. Crispin also explained the notions of GIality and near field communications (NFC), as well as providing depth of thinking on the opportunities of AR.

Online and live audiences put questions and comments to Antony, Crispin and Hannah, and an interesting and lively session completed the masterclass.