The Splendid Quill


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This is too cool NOT to share. It’s hard to say exactly how I can use this to make stuff more awesomer, but I have some ideas. I’ve always been fascinated with immersion environments and this looks like it might be about as deep as one can get at the moment. The tech is called “Augmented Reality” and you can find a pretty good primer on it here. Obviously, that’s the 30,000 foot view of where they hope it will go. Here’s a little video that’s giving a real world look at how they’re using flash to integrate 3d models on screen to present a version of AR:

That’s the kind of thing that just gets me all in a tizzy with the possibilities. So, what kind of possibilities you ask?

I like business cards and I like smartphones. I especially love my iPhone, but that’s me. I get that there are a lot of Blackberry fanatics out there. And for what it’s worth, the new Palm Pre is pretty neat too. But, on with how I think we can use AR to make life better. Or at least more tightly woven with cool technology.

First, there was this guy. He’s a total weirdo and he creeps me out. But he has a passion for wanting to make himself more memorable and look more impressive than the suit next to him. Can you fault a sales guy for thinking the right thing but being too slow to realize there’s a better way? Of course you can’t. But you can kind of laugh at him when no one’s looking. Take a look(and don’t be afraid to laugh a little):

But it got me thinking. See, here’s the quick explanation of how AR works. Webcams receive visual input. That visual input is then analyzed. Specifically looking for a fiducial marker. That marker, when visually processed, becomes an anchor for a 3D image to be tied to. Further, the software can perceive depth within the frame and react accordingly with the projected model.

So, thinking further about all this. I found this guy, James Alliban, with whom I would really like to be friends. 1) Because he’s smart on this stuff already. 2) Because he lives in London and I love that city. I tried to convince my wife to sell the house in the Point so we could move to London. That’s another story, but suffice to say, “No time for love Dr. Jones.” And 3) because he works for Skive. And I work for a spa/bath manufacturer. But, I digress. Anyway, Mr. Alliban did this:

AR Business Card from James Alliban on Vimeo.

An interactive digital business card. Moreover, it’s a cool card. And it’s private, meaning whomsoever one gives a card to, get’s to interact with it on their own terms. You just turn on the webcam, got to the indicated URL, let it load the Flash .swf, hold the card where the camera can see it and voila. The screen representation comes to life with Augmented Reality.

I’m smitten with this idea. I have convinced myself that I MUST do this. With more research I learned that he’s using Flash as his base. But he’s using a couple of code libraries called Papervision 3D and most importantly, FLARToolKit 2.0 which is a funkified japanese thing. I found a basic primer on it at a blog written by some weird designer guy named Mikko who gave sort of a tutorial on it. I downloaded all the goodies last night (which was an odyssey in and of itself) and plan to spend the weekend trying to make an AR piece. I’ll keep posting updates. I predict my next one will be one of dismay and depression that it’s way harder than it looks.

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