Things Learned at ISMAR 2009

Programmer Joe » 50 Things I Learned at ISMAR 2009:

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.

I think there are valid applications of GPS+compass AR applications – driving directions and local business listings are not among them. Entertainment and storytelling show more promise so far, but we’ll see…

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.

I’ve experienced this bias myself and in my opinion it’s just silly. If you criticize Layar and Wikitude for just using the camera for video pass through, you’re basically saying that any and all kinds of AR must rely on some kind of computer vision voodoo, otherwise they don’t count; that seems terribly smug and narrow-minded to me. Layar and Wikitude present us with a view of the world around us and they augment this view with digital information connected to a specific point in space. Just because they’re inaccurate and do things differently doesn’t mean they aren’t AR apps. In my opinion this bias primarily stems from envy, because these apps are actually available to consumers and they are getting all the media attention these days.

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.

I’m under the same impression. I think this either means that AR will never break through, that it’ll take a long time to break through, or (most likely) that it’ll break through in ways no one in the field could possibly imagine. That researchers don’t take the marketing uses seriously also shows that they’re in no way concerned with exposing people to this technology on a broad basis. From a research point, AR still seems to be in the punchcard era.


They Shoot Porn Stars Don’t They

Somehow i completely forgot to mention this when it was published, but i’ll make up for it now: Susannah Breslin recently self-published her wonderful essay “They Shoot Porn Stars Don’t They“. I’ve been following Susannah Breslin’s work for years and her latest essay makes for a great read. Highly recommended.

“In this canon, the real subject is not human sexuality but humanity itself. The products that Jim produces are videotaped vivisections, studies in which homo sapiens lie upon the operating table, the director is the doctor, the camera is the scalpel, and the only question worth asking is, How far will we go if we are pushed to our limits?”

D&D multitouch table

Surfacescapes is a pen & paper roleplaying Dungeons & Dragons environment for the Microsoft Surface multitouch table by the Entertainment Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon University:

Surfacescapes Demo Walkthrough from Surfacescapes on Vimeo.

While i find the concept very interesting and promising in theory, i’m not convinced by this implementation. Playing with the table looks a little cumbersome and not particularly helpful (i haven’t played a pen & paper RPG in 10 years though, so maybe i misjudge). Makes for some pretty graphics though. (via Rock, Paper, Shotgun)


10/GUI presents R. Clayton Miller’s creative reimagining of the prevalent mouse-driven desktop paradigm:

Over a quarter-century ago, Xerox introduced the modern graphical user interface paradigm we today take for granted.
That it has endured is a testament to the genius of its design. But the industry is now at a crossroads: New technologies promise higher-bandwidth interaction, but have yet to find a truly viable implementation.
10/GUI aims to bridge this gap by rethinking the desktop to leverage technology in an intuitive and powerful way.

While the practical suitability remains somewhat debatable (e.g. comments here and here), it’s an interesting concept with high production values.

10/GUI from C. Miller on Vimeo.


PhotoSketch looks like an amazing application (so much so that i have a really hard time believing that it works nearly as well as advertised). You draw a simple sketch with annotations and it automatically creates a photo montage of your sketch.

We present a system that composes a realistic picture from a simple freehand sketch annotated with text labels. The composed picture is generated by seamlessly stitching several photographs in agreement with the sketch and text labels; these are found by searching the Internet. Although online image search generates many inappropriate results, our system is able to automatically select suitable photographs to generate a high quality composition, using a filtering scheme to exclude undesirable images. We also provide a novel image blending algorithm to allow seamless image composition. Each blending result is given a numeric score, allowing us to find an optimal combination of discovered images. Experimental results show the method is very successful; we also evaluate our system using the results from two user studies.

Sketch2Photo: Internet Image Montage from Tao Chen on Vimeo.