Archive for the ‘Augmented Reality’ Category


In the interest of seeing just how wrong I can be twelve months from now, here is a list of things I think will happen in 2011. This is possibly the worst day of the year to write such a post, what with CES starting on Thursday, but that’s never stopped me before.

  1. Netflix will continue to kick ass. Their selection of streaming movies and TV shows will explode in 2011, though they will have to pay more for all that content.
  2. My internet connection will improve. Self-fulfilling prophecy? I hope so! I’ve had 1.5Mb/768kb DSL for ten years. It’s well past time to upgrade. In theory Qwest will be putting 20Mb service into my neighborhood soon, so maybe that’s in my future.
  3. Android will continue to kick ass and take names. 2011 will see >60% smartphone market share, a dizzying array of tablets and phones, and probably even some netbooks by fall. More and more apps will start to ship on both Android and iOS at the same time.
  4. Android 3.0 will include improvements for the annoying OS upgrade delays on that platform. Google will come up with some way to apply pressure on handset manufacturers and carriers to deliver the latest version of Android to uses in a more timely fashion.
  5. Still no consumer-level visual pass-through AR glasses. I said it last year, and I’ll keep saying it every year until I’m wrong. :)
  6. This will be the year the electric car revolution began. The Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt will both sell well and set the stage for the electric cars of 2012 (including the Tesla Model S) to blow the doors off.
  7. This year will feature one “unthinkable ten years ago” level medical advance. Will it be a cure for cancer? Regrowing limbs from your own stem cells? Repair of severed spinal cords? Pain medication with no side effects? Who knows, but something big is going to happen this year.

And that’s it!  If it’s not on this list it’s not going to happen in 2011!

(Think maybe something might happen in 2011 that wasn’t on this list? Please add your own prediction in the comments and we’ll see how you do!)

How did I do with my 2010 predictions

I realize these “predictions at new years” posts are a little cheesy and that you see them everywhere. I enjoy writing them, so I’m going to do it anyway. This is my look back at my predictions of one year ago to see how I did.

  1. Correct. It is arguably fair to call STO the only significant MMO launch of 2010. APB sort of fizzled, after all. I haven’t heard much about STO since its launch though… not sure how it’s actually doing.
  2. Sort of Correct. I could only come up with two cancellations from my list:
    • APB was actually cancelled after it came out. That’s the wrong way around.
    • The Agency is rumored to be more or less shut down at this point. Nothings been announced here and probably never will be.
  3. Correct. Reports are that they’ve both sold millions of units.  Natal (now named Kinect) has also incited thousands a cool Kinect Hack YouTube videos. Dance Central is pretty cool, so at least one great Kinect game is already out.
  4. Correct. According to this chart the unemployment rate in the US peaked at 10.6% in January 2010.
  5. Wrong. I’ve seen no evidence that Junaio, Layar, or Wikitude are ready to stray from their AR roots yet. In fact they seem to be doubling down by making the set of things they can position at a GPS location much more complete.
  6. Correct. There haven’t been any interesting new products in the area of wearable displays. Lots of talk at ARE2010 and elsewhere, but nothing concrete yet.
  7. Correct. Google Goggles came to the iPhone, but other than that neither company has done anything on the AR front.
  8. Wrong. There’s no indication that the marketing world (or consumers) are tired of simple AR campaigns. If anything the campaigns are continuing to grow in popularity and complexity.
  9. Correct. The iPad and iPhone 4 came out. Good thing I didn’t predict how well the iPad would do… I would have massively underestimated it.
  10. Correct. App store approval times are reported to be under a week these days. They also published the review guidelines, which is a big step up from 2009.
  11. Sort of wrong. Technically 200,000 is more than 50,000, but I completely underestimated the meteoric rise of Android during 2010. I thought that Android phones would only outsell iPhones until iPhone 4 came out, but they topped the iPhone in May (in the US) and never looked back.
  12. Correct. Nobody figured out what to do with it so Google mothballed the project.
  13. Wrong. Wave doesn’t inter-operate with anything. That’s a bit part of why it failed in my opinion.

My score was 9 correct and 4 wrong. Better numbers than last year, but I think I made more safe bets for 2010 too. 2010 went pretty much how I expected it would (with the notable exception of Android going gangbusters.)

How was your year? Did anything surprising happen?

SeAR July 2010: Augmented Reality the Next Next Big Thing

SeAR July 2010: Augmented Reality the Next Next Big Thing from Joe Ludwig on Vimeo.

This is my talk from last Wednesday’s Seattle Augmented Reality Meetup. I will upload the discussion that followed as a separate video later today. Comments and feedback are welcome… just comment below or over on Vimeo.

Obvious Idea #2: Passive Facial Recognizer

The Problem

I am bad with faces. I mean really bad with faces. My brain just doesn’t seem to be very good at mapping what someone looks like with their name.  This often makes things difficult for me at networking events and conferences.

The Solution

A passive mobile application that scans the environment around the user for faces. When it detects a face that it recognizes the application speaks the person’s name to the user via their bluetooth earpiece. Ideally this solution would also involve a discrete camera that could operate without being obvious to the people it is operating on. The point is to serve as a passive aid to memory while not changing the behavior of the people you are interacting with.

The Competition

There are a couple concept applications out there along this line including Recognizr and Comverse Social AR. Both of these applications have the same problem, which is that you have to hold up your phone to take a photo of the person you want to identify, then wait for the result to come back.  That is intrusive enough that a simple “I’m sorry, remind me what your name is…” would be a better option.

The Pieces

  1. Facial recognition. There are many providers of facial detection and recognition APIs, so it should be possible to license this piece. Unfortunately most of the providers don’t seem to be very good at licensing their SDK to people. I get the idea that these are all very small companies that spun out of someone’s PhD research.
    1. PittPatt never replied to my email.
    2. Luxand put me on their marketing email list, but never sent me an evaluation key.
    3. Betaface actually gave me a chance to evaluate their SDK. It works quite well. I wasn’t a fan of their licensing terms, but you might have different needs than I did.
    4. Ayonix got back to me right away but never provided the promised evaluation link.
    5. I don’t remember if I contacted Seeing Machines or not.
  2. Bluetooth camera – I bought an OptiEye. It works pretty well. If you ask them nicely they will send you the protocol documentation. The specs claim a four hour battery life, which is plenty for most networking events.
  3. Text to speech – I haven’t done any research here.  Many applications do it, though, so I would imagine SDKs are available.  If nothing else the user could record the names and the software could just play back the recordings.
  4. Mobile computer – Both Android and iPhone allow communication over RFCOMM, which is what the OptiEye uses. Existing devices are also too weak in the CPU department to do much visual processing on the phone, but they could stream video or individual frames up to a server for further processing.

What do you think?  Dream product?  Interesting project? Terrible idea?

Obvious Idea #1: OpenStreetMap for AR Tracking Images

At TED 2010 Blaise Aguera y Arcas from Microsoft demoed live integration of video into the existing structure-from-motion dataset in Photosynth. Though his demo showed a video feed moving around a scene the same data could just as easily be turned around to find the precise position of the camera in real-time. That capability is a key part of building a head-mounted augmented reality system.

Two weeks later Google announced that they are incorporating user photos into Google Street View. This requires essentially the same data as Photosynth. Google has the added advantage that they can combine it with the Street View images and LIDAR data they are already collecting. Though they haven’t demonstrated real-time capability with this data they certainly have all the pieces they need to make this happen.

Access to the data required to perform pose recognition with cameras is a novelty at the moment, but if mobile augmented reality takes off in a big way it will become a key component of that system.  In my opinion this component is too important to be left in the hands of one company. A much more desirable situation would be to have an OpenStreetMap-type project to accumulate and curate a freely available dataset to provide structure from motion and pose recognition for use in mobile augmented reality and whatever other uses someone can dream up.

OpenStreetMap is a project that sprung up to provide access to data that was free from the costs and restrictions that come with commercial data. It uses a Creative Commons license to make the data free for use by anyone for most any purpose. Although OpenStreetMap came about in response to the restrictions on commercial data sources, the same approach could be taken for 3D structure and image data even though commercial sources for that data do not yet exist. If OpenStreetMap had existed when car navigation systems became feasible in the late nineties it is likely that many commercial products could have been developed on open data at far lower cost and in much more variety.

All such a project needs is a small number of dedicated people to get it started. Download a copy of Bundler (an open source structure from motion library based on the same research that spawned Photosynth) and seek out publicly available photograph libraries. Then talk a cloud computing provider into sponsoring the project by hosting the data and build things up from there. The project won’t have many users for a few years, but as the accuracy and coverage of the dataset grows the set of applications based on this open data will grow too. Somebody just has to get the ball rolling.

I have a bunch of ideas like this one rattling around in my head. Some of them could be products or businesses, and some are just cool projects. I have looked into them all to some degree but probably never start real work on them. I’m going to post them here in an attempt to spawn a discussion and encourage you to share your thoughts in the comments. Feel free to do whatever you like with these ideas.