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Augmented Reality and the Future

Overview of Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality (AR) is a very important technological application that can be applied to different mediated interfaces e.g. cell phone, video game, television, etc.  As a result, the technology functions by enhancing one’s current perception of reality.  We are beginning to see more developments in a variety of different media platforms where augmented reality technology is being introduced.  The relevancy and importance of this topic to new/digital media pushes the envelope and current paradigms of how we interact with our current models of media and technology.  In the following articles, several people help to explain this growing phenomenon and its possible impact on our future.

How Augmented Reality Works by Kevin Bonsor

In this article Bonsor outlines five key points to augmented reality of its role in different interfaces like cell phones, video games, and the military as well as its limitations and its future.  He mentions, “Augmented reality adds graphics, sounds, haptic feedback and smell to the natural world as it exists. Both video games and cell phones are driving the development of augmented reality…Augmented reality is changing the way we view the world — or at least the way its users see the world.”  A rather simplistic definition is to superimpose audio-visual and other sensory graphics over our real-world environment in real time he exclaims.

One example that he references is called “Sixth Sense” utilizing some basic components like: a camera, small projector, smart phone, and a mirror tied around a lanyard that hangs from the users neck.  The user than has the ability to manipulate his reality with the help of this device.  “If he wants to know more about that can of soup than is projected on it, he can use his fingers to interact with the projected image and learn about, say, competing brands. SixthSense can also recognize complex gestures — draw a circle on your wrist and SixthSense projects a watch with the current time.” Bonsor goes on to offer some amazing examples of how cell phone apps which can be downloaded on the iPhone or Android can perform amazing functions.  One example, Layar, uses the phone’s camera and GPS capabilities to gather information about the surrounding area.  Another, Yelp’s Monocle will provide the user with information about the surrounding restaurants.  Next, Bonsor discusses the uses of AR in military technology and video games.

Total Immersion is AR software that allows baseball cards to interact in a very unique way by making the player on the card a 3D model that performs a specific action like throwing the ball.  Even with military technology, a squad in enemy territory doing reconnaissance can wear a “AR-enabled head-mounted display that could overlay blueprints or a view from a satellite or overheard drone directly onto the soldiers’ field of vision“.

Lastly, Bonsor concludes with some of AR’s limitations and challenges that must be overcome like GPS’ accuracy, the reliance on using cell phones, the concern for too much/an overload of information, and of course, issues dealing with privacy and security are mentioned.  He states, “The future of augmented reality is clearly bright, even as it already has found its way into our cell phones and video game systems.

Video: Bruce Sterling’s Keynote – At the Dawn of the Augmented Reality Industry

Bruce Sterling is as excited as a ‘kid in a candy store’ as he goes through some tips, predictions, and advice for the industry.  He describes three features to augmented reality 1) it combines the real and the virtual 2) it’s interactive in real time 3) and it registers in 3D.  People think they know what it is.  There’s too many companies, games, ads, applications, webcam, projected video technology, head mounted displays, and so much more that’s developing.  Along with these, there’s so much designing and skill sets that are required.  It’s a profitable business and AR looks “cool”.  It’s not too hard to understand, it’s not too geeky or remote.  It’s the most exciting thing happening in the tech industry.

  1. There’s a lot of hype that’s happening and awaiting.
  2. You are insulting the term’s pioneers when you try to change or neglect the term.
  3. It’s a tag.  A hashtag that you can look up on Google.  Where are people interested 1) Seoul, South Korea 2) Singapore 3) Munich 4) Kaula, Lam pour 5) Auckland… etc.  Augmented Reality is magic.  It works like magic. Yet, magic can be ‘cheezy’ and deceitful.
  4. It’s sleazy and is involved in pop.  It’s involved in porn, sells tampoons, sci-fi, comic books, politics, medicine, museum culture.
  5. Security advice – criminals are going to come.  Security is important to build first.  You are going to have trouble.  You are also going to get publicity of panics.  You are going to the ‘four horse men of infopocalypse’.  How do you deal with the political implications of AR?  You’re going to need an industry journal and code of ethics to help.
  6. Be prepared that the other guy will buy you out.  The major companies will buy you out.
  7. Host of problems: batteries will fail, screens are too small, environmental problems, roaming fees, walled gardens, opacity in pricing, etc.
  8. You need to have a look, an image.
  9. Everything changes for the better or everything becomes abandon for the worse.  Either case, you are in for a wild ride.

Can Augmented Reality be a Commercial Success for E-Commerce by James Gurd

Despite it’s buzzword appeal and social media’s increasing relationship with commercial planning, Gurd boldly asks the question of whether or not there is a commercial model that could make AR a practical tool in the e-commerce armoury?

Gurd answers his own question with a quaint YES.

He begins by briefly and simplistically explaining what augmented reality is.   Then, Gurd examines the current landscapes of different businesses and interface applications that are using AR in some examples of retail, publishing, and automotive.  Again, Gurd asks another question, “What will drive the uptake of AR?” and then adds that the increased usage of smart mobile devices like the iPhone, iPad, Kindle, Blackberry, Android, etc.  will be driving forces for uptaking AR technology.

Lastly, he proposes some plans where AR can be applied to in retail and asks if it can add value to consumers and drive commercial value.  Here are some of his suggestions:

“The savvy marketers will deliver content and solutions that people didn’t even know they wanted but subconsciously always desired. I think retail can tap into this latent demand in several ways:

  • High street retailers can develop a Store Finder mobile app that overlays local store information on interactive maps – perhaps an aggregation of all major brands would provide cost efficiency.
  • Dynamic contextual advertising that displays offers and promotions based on the location and profile of the mobile user (e.g. iPhone user gets different message than Blackberry user) – next step on from voucher code sites.
  • Serving customer reviews to mobile devices to facilitate decision making on the move.
  • Dynamically generating cross and up-sell recommendations based on scanning a barcode in-store on your mobile phone.
  • For the fashion industry, improving modelling of clothes from home to help make purchase decisions – increased accuracy should also help reduce returns.

If You’re Not Seeing Data, You’re Not Seeing by Brian X. Chen

Quotes taken from this article >

  • “Augmented reality is the ultimate interface to a computer because our lives are becoming more mobile,” said Tobias Höllerer, an associate professor of computer science at UC Santa Barbara, who is leading the university’s augmented reality program. “We’re getting more and more away from a desktop, but the information the computer possesses is applicable in the physical world.”
  • “Augmented reality is stifled by limitations in software and hardware” Examples are batter life, prices in hardware,
  • “The smartphone is bringing AR into the masses right now,” Selzer said. “In 2010 every blockbuster movie is going to have a mobile AR campaign tied to it.”
  • “This is the first time media, internet and digital information is being combined with reality,” said Martin Lens-FitzGerald, co-founder of Layar. “You know more, you find more, or you see something you haven’t seen before. Some people are even saying that it might be even bigger than the web.”
  • “This industry is just getting started, and as processing speeds speed up, and as more creative individuals get involved, our belief is this is going to become a platform that becomes massively adopted and immersed in the next few years.”

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Plugging into the Gaming Underground

“At this writing, there are 30,000 games for the iPhone and iPod touch. That’s more than the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Wii libraries combined. (And even then, you still have over 25,000 games to go.)”

And so starts the first ever list of “Top 25 iPhone Games” from gaming site IGN, posted just a month ago on January 29, 2010. Reset to today: games released on the iPhone are beginning to get much more sophisticated than those mentioned on IGN’s 1st iPhone gamining list, with games now resembling those that can be found on Sony’s PSP and Nintendon’s DS. Here’s the latest in iPhone & gaming news from this week:

Top-Grossing iPhone Game Apps Week of 3/2

Big gaming companies are continuing to support the iPhone in Apple’s venture to become a viable gaming platform. But, just because so says the “almighty powers that be within gaming,” doesn’t necessarily mean the gaming consumer community will oblige. Much to my surprise, though, as I’ve traversed the gaming world these past couple of weeks, I have found quite an array of answers, leaving me not only waiting for Apple’s next move, but the consumers’ next move, as well.

This week, I delved into the community of gaming, armed with a plethora of questions to pose to gamers. I embedded myself on popular gaming websites, specifically in their discussion forums and on the comments section of articles. Specifically, websites included: IGN, G4TV, Capcom-Unity, and NewGrounds. In addition to the gaming websites, I also used Twitter. I gathered some interesting input on what people’s barriers to interest were on the iPhone as a gaming platform.

Is the iPhone the next portable in disguise?

During my time as a gaming girl, I received a spectrum of responses. It seemed that the gaming community was moderately split on the subject. There were those who were staunchly opposed, and these nay-sayers seemed to have a couple of recurring issues with the iPhone. One of these issues, as I expected, was the touch screen. Others were simply not inclined to accept a phone as a gaming handheld, and their attitude could be characterized as them thinking it to be a preposterous proposition: how can a PHONE (and a touch screen phone, at that) be a GAMING SYSTEM? (quote is below if can’t view from link- the tweet was protected.)

“I am sure it can handle, but it’s suppose to be a dam phone not a gaming system” -@drumerguy via Twitter

On the positive side of the community, gamers seemed to express a mixture of excitement and ambivalence, but generally an optimistic “wait and see” approach. Those that believed in the iPhone for gaming purposes seemed to have a more technical knowledge base of the device- they knew of the phone’s potential from a hardware standpoint.

I was surprised by how difficult it was to evoke dialogue within the gaming forums, which left me a little disappointed at times. But, when it came to commenting on articles posted on gaming websites, readers were very quick to comment and express their opinion (with one article I commented on having 2,539 comments!). While there were exceptions, it seemed like gamers were more inclined to criticize  articles written by website journalists than they were to provide their own insights to raw questions on forums.

People’s answers gave me some insight, but also raised questions about the sincerity of their statements. For example, did these gamers genuinely assess the iPhone and determined that it was an unacceptable means by which to play games, or were they biased by their blind loyalty to Nintendo and Sony? Furthermore, I’d like to know if these responses will be different in 6 months because of simply a passage of time or a potential introduction of a button peripheral.

Looking at the online gaming community as a whole also left me with a few questions. Namely, why is it that gamers were more quick to comment on articles than they were to comment on forums (it’s also important to note that on forums, the amount of people who viewed a post was always considerably higher than those who actually responded)? Is it because these articles gave gamers an opportunity to quickly vent about the topic at hand? If this is true, then it’s possible that the responses were biased towards those who felt strongly enough to complain.

From an overall, long-term perspective, a big question that kept recurring to me as I dug deeper and deeper into gaming was whether or not the iPhone would fuel gaming innovation. This comes not just from the standpoint of games being introduced to the device, but also from whether or not Apple will push Sony and Nintendo to come out with better, cheaper systems. For instance, while a representative from Nintendo stated in an interview this past Tuesday that they’re not afraid of Apple, the company will be releasing a cheaper, larger handheld (the DSi XL, possibly to be in competition with the iPad?) on March 28th. Seems like this news contradicts the Nintendo representative’s statement, to me!

“Sony Readying PSP Phone, iPad Killer?” -IGN

Last week, when I first started researching the portable gaming environment, one of the first places I started digging for information was at www.latestpatents.com, a site that lists out the latest patents of leading technology companies. While looking up Sony, I noticed that their list of patents from February 18th seemed to be dealing with a new phone. This, I did not think much of. What I did find particularly interesting, though, was a patent they had for a, “universal game console controller.” I thought that maybe they were making some sort of physical controller that could be used to play games on phones? But, in the end, thought that we wouldn’t be hearing too much information on these patents any time soon.

Today, while searching on IGN, it seems that I might have been mistaken. The gaming site posted an article stating that Sony might possibly be putting out a phone and tablet to rival the Apple iPhone and iPad. Furthermore, there is said to be a special Sony Online Service that is to be launched by the end of March. Could this be their version of the Apple App Store, but instead to be full of traditional games?

Here’s the Wall Street Journal article with more detailed information.

This will definitely be a telling story to watch unravel, and I’m interested to see if the device will match the patents listed on LatestPatents.com!

Apple’s ready to enter the gaming world with its iPhone, but are consumers ready to welcome it?

Resident Evil on iPhone

After reading and researching Apple and gaming further, it seems pretty clear to me that Apple is trying to make a push to enter the portable gaming world with its iPhone/iPod/iPad devices.  There have been a handful of news articles concerning portable gaming and the iPhone since Capcom mentioned that Street Fighter will be coming to iPhone. Here’s my blog that more specifically details these stories as further background information. Two of the highlights include:

With these articles in mind, and since iPhone hasn’t overtly made a jump into the gaming world yet, I would like to use Web 2.0 to research and determine how consumers feel about the iPhone as a feasible gaming platform. I am looking to embed myself in the “gaming world” through traditional sources, like news media, as well as becoming an active member on gaming websites and forums, where I can talk to gamers and determine the overall point of view of the iPhone as a legitimate portable gaming platform. I also plan to download and play a few iPhone games, so that I may competently discuss them on the forums. Twitter will also be beneficial to my purpose of gaining information (I tweet for a horror film website; in my experience with horror, the genre of horror and that of gaming tend to overlap, with there being a shared interest in these two topics amongst those who follow either or both).

Those involved in the gaming culture are very “cliquey” and loyal to certain games and platforms; gamers tend to form emotional attachments to their brand/company of choice, ie, Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo. For instance, even though I am not a gamer, I have grown up with my brother first playing Sega and then migrating to Playstation, and from there Playstation 2 and 3. Because of his loyalty to Playstation, I have also formed a certain affinity with the brand. Because of my own experience, I would anticipate that self-identified gamers would have an even stronger attachment to their system of choice. I’ve also observed that gaming websites arrange their forums/message boards into console-specific areas. So, I would expect that within these sites, you would find people discussing and debating different topics with a loyalty to said console . I would also imagine that this hypothesized loyalty to their brand of choice will make it difficult to persuade gamers to migrate to Apple’s iPhone as a new gaming platform.

Before, people had to purchase various personal portable items separately: $200 for a phone, $200 for an mp3 player, $200 for a portable DVD player, $200 for a portable gaming system, etc… Now, Apple is creating the opportunity for all these devices to be consolidated into one platform: the iPhone. In some of their TV advertisements, Apple even specifically states the idea of having all information in one place, at your fingertips. Most recently, this opportunity to consolidate has expanded into gaming, with  interest amongst 3rd party game developers. But, will gaming consumers show this same support? I’ll keep you updated as I traverse the gaming sphere!

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This Week in Gaming…

Hey everyone! I just wanted to give you an update on breaking news concerning portable gaming/the iPhone before I posted my question and initial assumptions about the culture of the gaming environment. Question to follow soon!

  1. February 17th: Two days after news hit that Street Fighter is to be released on the iPhone, Capcom made gaming news, yet again, by announcing its immediate release of Resident Evil 4 to the platform. The entire game wasn’t released, though. Rather, this game was specifically geared towards “beginners,” being rightfully dubbed “Resident Evil 4: for Beginners” for only $0.99. With this no-commitment, immediate release, maybe Capcom is attempting to warm up non-gamers and gamers alike to the idea of playing traditional games on the iPhone?
  2. February 21st: Apple announced that it increased iPhone 3G’s app download limit from 10MB to 20MB. Previously, iPhone users who wanted to download an app larger than 10MB had to switch over to a WiFi connection. Maybe Apple is gearing up for some bigger file-sized games to be coming to the App Store (Resident Evil: Degeneration has a file size of 13.6MB & Final Fantasy I has a file size of 72.1MB)?
  3. February 22nd (1): OnLive (a yet-to-be-released subscription gaming service that allows you to stream & play games on a personal device from remote computer hardware) announced that their demo of the game Crysis  being played on the iPhone ran, “fast and smooth.” Typically, Crysis requires super high-end computer hardware to run, usually costing $3,000+. OnLive also mentioned running their app on “tablets”…iPad to be their next adventure? Gamers having the option of subscribing to a service where they can stream games on a multitude of platforms could mean a whole new direction for Apple (and gaming platforms in general). Here’s more on how the “cloud gaming” console works.
  4. February 22nd (2): IGN.com released a “first impressions” article about Street Fighter IV for the iPhone, with video shots of the reviewer, Charles Onyett,  playing the game. Overall, he was impressed with it, saying that it’s “pretty, functional, and coming out in March.” He also mentioned that the game was created in a way that both beginners to the game, as well as avid Street Fighter fans, will have an enjoyable experience, noting that there are certain difficulty functions that can be turned on and off.
  5. February 25th: Final Fantasy I & II are released on the iPhone. While these are only PSP (Playstation Portable) games that were ported (rewritten to be compatible with another operating system, while the actual game, for the most part, stays the same) over to the iPhone, since they are such well-known, iconic games (in IGN’s review, they called Final Fantasy “not just a videogame,” but an “institution”), it’s been a legitimate discussion topic on gaming sites and forums. Furthermore, there was talk about Final Fantasy I & II coming to the iPhone previously, but there never seemed to be a set date for when it was to be released. So, did Square Enix (the company that makes Final Fantasy) see that Capcom was releasing Street Fighter and decide that now would be as good of a time as ever to release the game?

It’s interesting to see how things have developed since Capcom’s mention that Street Fighter will be coming to iPhone. I haven’t followed gaming in the past (before this week) to know if there was a significant change in talk about portable gaming, but it seems as if there has, at the very least, been a steady flow of developments concerning iPhone as a portable gaming system.

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Apple vs. Nintendo & Sony: Round 1- FIGHT!

GPS, MP3s, Telecommunication…can Apple integrate yet another market into it’s iPhone? Nobody knows for sure as of yet, but it certainly seems that a new trend has slowly been emerging on the iPhone – video games.  It started innocuously enough with simple pick-up-and-play type games made by small companies and indie developers. And, if iPhone users did want to tap into more in-depth gaming, many times they had to “jailbreak” their iPhone. But, over the past few months, well-known developers have slowly been revealing plans for and releasing bigger budgeted  games on par with those traditionally seen on dedicated gaming handhelds produced by companies with established video game market share- namely, Nintendo and Sony with their DS and PSP, respectively. Furthermore, Apple has been allegedly bringing gaming experts into the company. The implications were there in the past, but this week seemed to have more concretely defined where the iPhone might go next.

This past week, big game developer Capcom proved to up the ante for the gaming industry with its game Street Fighter IV set to be released for the iPhone this coming March. What makes this release different from past big game releases on the iPhone, such as Resident Evil: Degeneration, is the fact that Street Figher IV was “no quickie, banged-out port” (port = when a manufacturer simply rewrites a game’s code for a different operating system). Rather, it was specifically made for the iPhone from the ground, up, with visually stimulating graphics and an iPhone specific virtual pad. Furthermore, Capcom completely avoided developing this game for the more traditional, well-known systems (Nintendo DS and PSP); Street Fighter IV was first released on the home consoles Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 a year ago, and is now going straight to the iPhone for the portable version.

Street Fighter IV for iPhone

There are many implications that come with such a well-known gaming manufacturer so clearly and strategically investing in the iPhone as a new operating system. Will Capcom be the only gaming company that sees iPhone as a viable new gaming portal? Or, will others soon follow their lead? Furthermore, do avid gamers see the iPhone as an operating system they are willing to invest in themselves? For instance, a positive gaming experience can very much be a result of the system’s control pad. Will gamers enjoy this virtual game pad and look to see it recreated in other iPhone games, or will they reject it as not up to par with the traditional physical version?

While I might not be able to report back on how well Street Fighter IV for iPhone sells and is or is not accepted by the gaming community (since it’s not coming out until some time in March), I would like to research and explore how the gaming community, from both the producer and consumer side, reacts to this said course of action. I’d like to explore the questions above, as well as the following: How open is Apple to established gaming manufacturers making such in-depth games? What does this mean for the indie developers? Will Capcom follow up with announcing more games specifically made for the iPhone in due time (ie, does the company already have other games in the works that it will soon release, as well)? Or, will they wait and see how Street Figher IV does in the App Store before investing more money? If iPhone catches on as a viable gaming device, what does this mean for the future of traditional gaming systems?

While I do not anticipate answering all of these questions, these are topics I will keep in mind and explore while I travel through the gaming sphere. I plan on researching the questions through a number of different means: news articles, forum discussion boards on well-known gaming sites (www.ign.com, www.gamespot.com, & http://g4tv.com), talking to gamers, and trying out some current iPhone games, myself. I’m also open to any ideas you guys might have!