50 Things I Learned at ISMAR 2009

The good thing about going to your first conference on a new subject matter is that you’re not jaded and certainly not level capped. So without further ado, here are fifty things I learned at ISMAR:

  1. Metaio is pronounced mehtayo, not (as I’ve been saying) mehtah-ayo.
  2. The high-end HMDs that academics buy for tens of thousands of dollars are terrible.
  3. Nokia has a very cool see-through display with eye tracking up and running in their research lab. This display may never see the light of day.
  4. There are still tons of people doing research with markers.
  5. Robert Rice and I are both 38.
  6. When using a tag-based gesture to activate a menu, users are more accurate and able to select their option more quickly if the options are presented relative to the user’s view than if they are presented relative to the marker’s original location or an object in the world.
  7. Vuzix is working on cool stuff and Paul Travers is a good guy with a passion for AR.
  8. Telepresence is creepy when it is accomplished by projecting a remote video feed onto a static mannekin head. (This was the Anamatronics Shader Lamps Avatar paper and demo.)
  9. Robert Rice really got into AR in early 2008, just like me.
  10. The academic AR community is ready to welcome industry to their conference with open arms. Apparently there were many more companies present this year than last year.
  11. Metaio’s mobile platform (Junaio) is not a clone of Layar/Wikitude in any way. They are building a much more social system based on user-provided content.  Junaio is also going to work on phone with no compass (i.e. the iPhone 3G.)
  12. X from Y is a smart dude. (Sub in any X and Y you like among the many people I met this week. I met so many smart people.)
  13. There are some professors who love the sound of their own voices. OMG, (that one guy) from (that one university) can’t seem to ask a question in less than five minutes.
  14. I believe that augmented reality is the next big technology revolution and will have an impact at least as big as the web’s impact. This will provide opportunities for tons of companies and as a result there’s no reason to start competing bitterly at this early stage.  It turns out Robert Rice agrees with me.
  15. Tish Shute is obsessed with XMPP (and a smart non-dude.)
  16. There are more AR startups out there that are flying under the radar. For instance, there are these two guys from Rochester…
  17. Silicon Valley remains completely oblivious to AR. If Robert and I are right it will be interesting to see what this means for their dominance of the startup community.
  18. The vast majority of the AR research being done in adademia is being done outside the US. I knew this going in, but it was shocking to be confronted with it in person.
  19. Georg Klein (of PTAM fame) works at Microsoft now.  Hmm.
  20. The food in Orlando is terrible.  Maybe they could move this conference to Austin…
  21. Microvision’s display technology works really well.  At least on the monocular test unit that I got a chance to look through after their talk.
  22. There is (or was) at least one PC gamer out there that has never heard of Steam. I was shocked.
  23. Qualcomm is backing AR in a big way and intends to be the hardware provider of choice for mobile AR.
  24. Venture Capital isn’t flowing into augmented reality quite yet. Most AR startups are self-funded or funded by friends and family.
  25. I am much better at networking than I was when I first started going to game conferences.
  26. It is far too early for meaningful standards in AR. It would be awfully nice if the Wikitude content provider API used the same format that people are already providing to Layar, however.
  27. The projector part of Sixth Sense is still a non-starter. The UI parts are still very cool, however.
  28. Robert Rice and I have a creepy number of common traits.
  29. Disney Imagineering makes extensive use of AR.
  30. Peter from Metaio suggests that if you want to get anything done in the AR space you shouldn’t spend any time worrying about whether or not what you’re doing is AR or not. I agree with him. There’s not a clear line between AR and not AR and there probably never will be.
  31. See-through glasses at a reasonable price point (and field of view) are probably more than a year out. This is frustrating to a great many people, including me.
  32. Layar isn’t going to ruin AR. I went into the week with a fear that the GPS+compass category (which Layar is currently leading) would forever taint the term Augmented Reality by providing a fairly useless AR view (when compared to a map or list view.)  Instead I think that people will simply not use the AR view and that Layar pushes location based services forward in a huge way by providing access to multiple content providers from a single app. One day no one will remember that they started out as primarily an AR app.
  33. I prefer talks about what people did over talks about what people think will happen.
  34. For many researchers, augmented reality is a solution looking for a problem. There are a lot of gee-whiz demos and many people seem to accept cool factor as a compelling reason to use AR instead of more traditional solutions.
  35. I saw a presentation on an AR-based interface that included a user study that concluded the mouse-and-keyboard interface they devised for comparison was both more accurate and faster for users. Clearly we should not rush out and replace all UI in places where a mouse and keyboard are working now.
  36. Roundtable sessions with fifty or more people in the room don’t work.
  37. There was a company using optical flow to fake accelerometer-type UI elements back before phones had accelerometers. On a related note, promo videos from old dead-end technologies are funny.
  38. By and large academics feel that augmented reality is poised to take off in a big way.
  39. Academics don’t drink nearly as much as game developers.
  40. Nobody has solved the problem of optical tracking in arbitrary outdoor environments as a means of correcting GPS and magnetometer error. The sensor fusion presentation from Gratz was promising, however.
  41. ISMAR doesn’t treat their speakers very well. Apparently there was some question at to whether or not speakers would even get a free badge.  That’s just silly. Speakers also shouldn’t have to buy their tickets to the award banquet all attendees get for free.
  42. Some people think that “the Layar and Wikitude type apps” don’t count as real AR because they only use the camera for video pass through. Most people (including some of the people in the first group) agree that it doesn’t really matter whether these apps are AR or not.
  43. Video pass-through introduces massive latency, which can cause significant issues with perception of haptic feedback.
  44. Natasha Tsakos is happy to use the same shtick to open her talks at both TED and ISMAR.
  45. AR researchers are poor at name badge design. Badges should include company/university name. The name of the attendee is the most important thing on the badge and should be larger than everything else. The ISMAR badges had three lines of text, all the same size:
    • ISMAR 2009
    • Your Name
    • Science and Technology or Arts and Humanities.
  46. Nobody in the ISMAR community takes the various advertising uses of AR too seriously.
  47. You shouldn’t register for a conference on the day registration opens. Apparently the regonline account was still in test mode for the first day or so and all the people who registered that day didn’t really register (or have a charge appear on their credit cards.)
  48. There is a strong bias toward computer vision and away from other sensors among many researchers.
  49. Orlando was not made for walking.
  50. ISMAR 2009 was totally worth attending.

I am so happy I went.  ISMAR reinvigorated my interested in AR and allowed me to meet many great people. I wonder if I’ll be able to swing a trip to Seoul for ISMAR 2010.

~Joe


15 Responses to “50 Things I Learned at ISMAR 2009”

  1. Robert Rice said on :

    I agree, Joe and I have a creepy number of common traits. Really. Creepy.

    I do agree with his list though. Good observations man. Can’t wait for next year.

  2. Gail wrote on :

    As an aspiring academic (PhD student looking to research educational AR games), I definitely laughed a few times while reading this list. Well done! :)

  3. Marshall Kirkpatrick wrote on :

    Good write-up, much appreciated. Wish I or someone from our staff at ReadWriteWeb could have been there.

  4. Tish Shute wrote on :

    Great list Joe! It captures so much of ISMAR very concisely. Yes I am pretty obsessed with furthering the cause of Open Distributed AR fully integrated into the internet and www. This is where it is at for the Next Wave of AR (IMHO). And XMPP as implemented in the Google Wave Federation is the first serious opportunity I have seen to actually explore ideas of open, distributed AR in practice. But XMPP is only one piece of a potential plumbing system for Open AR. And there is no point of plumbing without a house. Open Distributed AR has to be nurtured across many areas.
    See you in Wave!

  5. Thomas K Carpenter wrote on :

    Nice list. I liked #50. The good part about that walk was that we hijacked Noah along the way.

    I also find it interesting that I can relate to most of your 50 items and I was only there for half the conferance. Guess I picked the good half?

    Working on my own list as well (but not 50). I’ll try not to overlap my observations. :)

  6. me_wwwing replied on :

    have you seen the slide show on Ben’s Blog?
    slide 5 is very interesting.
    like to hear what you heard from them after you see the slide show.
    TIA
    http://microvision.blogspot.com/

  7. moombe commented on :

    I just wonder… When I read all these articles since months about the rise and shine of AR, it really remembers me of the hype on VR in the early 90′s. At that time, we had also promises of short to middle term killer VR apps, we were promised affordable VR glasses in a couple of months, we were promised a lot of things, and basically nothing happened – at least of the mass market.

    AR = VR ?

  8. Joe wrote on :

    @me_wwwing: I came in around slide 4 in that presentation. I asked a few questions about the prototype he was demoing and saw both a mostly-black (i.e. transparent) UI mockup and a Britney Spears video through it. Looked pretty sweet.

    @moombe: That’s really the question of the hour. Is AR going to fizzle away like VR kinda didn’t but really didn’t. Probably deserves its own post. :)

  9. Brian Selzer replied on :

    Joe, It was great meeting you at ISMAR. I love your insightful and comprehensive list. I was going to blog on the event, but now I’m thinking I’ll just link to your post along with Ori’s, Tish’s and Roberts. :)

  10. Steve Bedigian commented on :

    Joe, you write so well that even though I don’t understand most of what the heck you’re talking about it was very enjoyable! Glad to see you’re doing so well. All the best, Steve Bedigian

  11. Christopher Stapleton thought on :

    Joe,
    Thanks for all the feedback. I can’ agree more. ISMAR is growing and hopefully will take note. Your recommendations will be in my final report as the General Chair. IEEE didn’t approve the budget until 3 months before the conference. It took 6 months for approval. We had to do a lot of things at the last minute. However, we will start fixing now. See you in 2010.
    Cheers,
    Christopher Stapleton, General Co-Chair ISMAR 2009

  12. Naman Thakar thought on :

    Here in Adelaide for ISMAR 2013. Are you attending?

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  1. Trackback from augmented-reality.net on :

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    50 cose che ho imparato all’ISMAR 2009 by Joe Ludwig…

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