Current State of AR

Three years have passed since GE astonished us with their Smart Grid flash based AR commercial. Since then, AR has been slowly being embraced as mainstream technology and was deployed on various devices and platforms. During the GE campaign, we saw the release of first Web based AR implementation – FlartoolKit (ArtToolKit AR libraries for Flash). Three years later, there are several Web AR implementations.  In2AR recently released Flash based AR SDK, and SLARToolkit was developed for the Microsoft Sliverlight platform.

One problem many novice users come across is the creation of 3D models for their AR projects. In general, 3D objects are difficult to create. Depending on the complexity, it may take several days to several weeks to master various 3D modeling software packages. In our research, we discovered that Google 3D Warehouse when used with Google Sketchup, offers myriad of free 3D models that can be used to create other 3D models, scenes and scenarios. Additionally, Blender has proven to be a great developmental and supplemental tool for creation of 3D content.

Microsoft Kinect 3D scanner may be an option for those who want to create complex 3D models or to digitize existing physical 3D models. For example, you could scan a 3D object (e.g. tea kettle) with Microsoft Kinect and ReconstructMe, prepare it in MeshLab, MeshMixer, and Blender, and export it as a full 3D object to be used in AR project. Tony Buser‘s 3D scan cleanup project with exclusion of 3D printing is a good example of this concept. This workflow has the potential to simplify the process of creation of 3D objects and make it easier for novices to create content for their AR projects.

In the area of fiducial marker recognition and processing, there are indications that fiducial marker based AR is being  replaced with image recognition algorithms. Fiducial markers have to be created with great care and are unsightly when compared to image based markers. It is easier to associate an image of a monkey with a 3D model of a monkey than associating the same 3D model with hiro fiducial marker.

And lastly, AR interaces such as see-through HMD’s are getting more advanced. In the past three years, several companies (Vuzix, Brother, Epson) introduced commercial grade AR see-through goggles. In the Spring of 2012, Google has also entered the AR interface market by announcing project Glass. Almost all of these interfaces are experimental or well above the $1000 price tag, but as this technology becomes more available, we can expect a price drop within a year or two.

The future for AR seems bright and it will be exciting to see what the next three years bring.

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