v. / ôgˈment/ [tr.] make (something) greater by adding to it;
Like many new digital art forms Augmented Reality is not very well known to mass audiences, as it is still mainly multimedia professionals and curious individuals who have been able to experiment with AR.
Augmented Reality brings immersive, computer-generated content, and the real world together.
I think it needs to be made clear that Augmented Reality is not Virtual Reality as AR allows the user to see the real world with virtual objects superimposed upon or composited with the real world (Azuma 1997). Enhancing the users environment to a level never seen before.
Interactive media is currently at the forefront of multimedia companies agendas. Augmented Reality drives this to the consumer, in a relativity simple and easy to implement way.
Thanks to the power and now relative wide spread use of consumer Smartphone's, Augmented Reality is really starting to be embraced by mobile users covering a huge range of applications to aid everyday life or just purely for entertainment.
One thing to note is that: Augmented Reality = Immersion of Content
Instead of immersing the user into a virtual environment like in virtual reality, Augmented Reality immerses multimedia content into the real world. So in a sense AR bridges the gap between reality and fantasy (in some ways more than others) for from a digital art perspective, the possibilities are endless.
Ivan Sutherland established the theoretical foundations of virtual reality in 1965, describing what in his opinion would be the ultimate display:
The ultimate display would, of course be a room within which the computer can control the existence of matter. A chair displayed in such a room would be good enough to sit in. Handcuffs displayed in such a room would be confining, and a bullet displayed in such a room would be fatal. With the appropriate programming, such a display could literally be the Wonderland into which Alice walked. (Bimbe, Raskar 2005)
In 1962 Morton Heilig created the 'Sensorama', which was a simulator that had wide-angle stereoscopic visuals, sound, vibration and smell (Rheingold 1992). It was the earliest example of immersive, multi-sensory technology and could also be argued that it was the first prototype of virtual reality.
A year after Sutherland described in his opinion what would be the ultimate display he invented the head-mounted display (HMD) which was worn on the head or as part as a helmet. This was the first implementation of augmented reality but at the time was not available to the mass market.
Users were first able to interact with virtual objects in 1975 after Myron Krueger created 'Videoplace' an Artificial Reality laboratory. His idea was to create an Artificial Reality that surrounded the users and responded to their stimuli using projectors, video cameras and special purpose hardware instead of using the (by now) conventional use of goggles and gloves. Users didn't have to be in the same room to interact as movements of the users were captured and analyzed before then being transferred into silhouette representations displayed in the Artificial Reality environment. The users had a sense of presence while interacting with onscreen (virtual) objects and other users even thought there was no direct tactile feedback in the lab.
The phrase Virtual Reality was later coined and popularised by Jaron Lanier in the early 1980s. This led Lanier to create the first commercial business around virtual worlds and then in 1989 he founded VPL Research, the first company in the world to sell VR products.
Finally in 1992 while working at Boeing helping workers assemble cables into aircraft Tom Caudell coined the phrase Augmented Reality and opened up a new avenue for businesses to go down. This simple system projected the guide of where the cables had to go onto the surface so the workers didn't have to keep looking at plans and keep wasting time.
That same year L.B.Rosenberg developed one of the first functioning AR systems called 'VIRTUAL FIXTURES', at the U.S. Air Force Armstrong Labs. This Augmented Reality system overlaid information onto a workspace and demonstrated the benefit on human performance and efficiency.
As more and more interest around Augmented Reality is gathered Steven Feiner, Blair MacIntyre and Doree Seligmann present the first major paper on an AR system prototype named KARMA, at the Graphics Interface conference.
Seven years later in 1999 Hirokazu Kato develops ARToolKit at the HITLab and it is demonstrated at SIGGRAPH (Special Interest Group on GRAPHics and Interactive Techniques) that year. This tool kit opens up Augmented Reality to the masses as anyone could (and still can) download it and create their own applications. Today ARToolKit is used by over 300 researchers worldwide for a very diverse set of projects.
In the year of the millennium the first outdoor Augmented Reality game, ARQuake, (AR version of the popular game Quake by idSoftware), was developed by Bruce H. Thomas. The game was later demonstrated in the International Symposium on wearable Computers.
AR Quake was a first-person shooter that allows the user to run around in the real world whilst playing a game in the computer-generated world. The system uses GPS, a hybrid magnetic and inertial orientation sensor, a custom-made gun controller, and a standard laptop carried on a backpack (ARQuake 2009).
More recently with the abundant Smartphone's now available to the mass consumer market Wikitude AR Travel Guide was launched on 20 October 2008 with the G1 Android phone.
Wikitude is a mobile travel guide based on Wikipedia and Panoramio. The user is able to search landmarks in their immediate surroundings and view them on AR camera view. Annotated landscapes, mountain names, landmark descriptions, and interesting stories will then be displayed for the user to consume.
Last year in 2009 the AR ToolKit was ported to Adobe Flash (FLARToolkit) by Sagoosha. This enabled AR applications to be run on your average web browsers.
For Augmented Reality the user needs a combination of display (Smartphone, HMD), tracking (A-GPS, accelerometers, gyros, optical sensors, RFID and onboard compasses), input devices (gloves, goggles, Smartphone) and software (image registration etc).
Originally Augmented Reality required special goggles or glasses that used a special array of mirrors to enable the user to see the real word with virtual information overlaid. But thanks to the widespread availability of Smartphone's and the increasing amount of Augmented Reality applications available to freely download you can also use the camera of your phone to engage in AR wherever you are, 24/7.
Now more recently the use of portable projectors can be used to overlay content into the real world (known as Spatial Displays) and although still in its infancy portable projection holds huge potential as the ability to provide passive haptic feedback through touching physical objects that have content projected onto them. Although currently the main AR display is the Smartphone due to its widespread appeal and its relatively wide market use.
With the use of HMD as the earliest implementation of AR, as well as the HMD a tracker system needed to be attached and these systems would become quite bulky in size. But again thanks to the widespread availability of Smartphone's you can have AR in your pocket and all the possibilities to find you're nearest restaurant. Using A-GPS (assisted global positioning service), accelerometers and onboard compasses your can just point your camera phone at a restaurant to get the phone number to make a reservation or even to read reviews, if you even feel like it the you can have a look at the menu to decide if you like what you see. If you don't fancy anything on the menu then point your camera around you to look for similar restaurants and see what direction they are in.
As with the earlier uses of Augmented Reality an input device them would have needed gloves that could be tracked to display virtual objects. Currently input devices are also a research and development question as new tracking techniques could be employed with wand like devices for example.
The whole idea of AR is to super impose virtual content into the real world, which is captured by a camera and displayed through the display device chosen. The visual content has to be able to be aligned with the captured image from the camera. Depending on whether these are fixed points or moving targets makes no difference, as the virtual content still needs to be registered and positioned in relation to the user, this is called 'image registration'. This is why highly developed software needs to be employed to make sure that this is possible, and works.
The potential of Augmented Reality is huge. As people are becoming more used to using the web to find content and undertake tasks, going about there daily business not connected to easy to find content can frustrate users.
With AR they can have all the content they would want to know at their fingertips. Whether the device will still be a Smartphone in a few years is unlikely as tablet devices are inbound to the mass market in the coming months.
Users on the whole prefer being connected, having the ability to find things with ease and make informed decisions on outputs they find on their handheld device often results in a positive outcome for them.
If we delve into the other markets Augmented Reality features in we find that AR isn't just for entertainment or to assist consumers in their everyday lives, it is used in many other sectors for various applications.
As with most new technologies the military and emergency services take a big interest in it. Used in the field by the military and emergency services, AR can be incorporated into helmets, glasses and or wearable systems to inform the wearer of enemy/friendly locations as well as providing information to aid the user such as maps and intelligence.
AR is also pushing advertising to new levels of interactivity in relatively simple ways. Using 'Cybercodes', which are barcode, like prints that enable computers to track orientation as well as position in relation to the cameras position, on sections of a surface (e.g. a brochure). The user can hold up a webcam (or camera of any kind) to this and with the appropriate software, see content emulated in the real world on the screen (e.g. the advertised product in 3D, or its variations).
Navigation is well enhanced by Augmented Reality using wearable displays or handheld devices.
HMDs were using in fighter jets as one of the first AR applications. Assisted with GPS users can find out points of interest using their Smartphone's such as the London Underground AR application, which enables users to find Tube Stations.
When simulated architecture plans need to be virtually placed in an environment when on site AR can make this possible. Augmented Reality makes overlaying how a building could or has looked like in real time possible.
With printable codes it is possible to collaborate with other users using virtual and physical objects in a real world space, useful for creative professional and designers across all industries.
Essentially anything is possible with AR. It enables users to sense information they wouldn't have naturally been able to detect. How they use and interpret this information is totally up to them and it makes general everyday life more efficient and streamlined.
The overall effect of Augmented Reality can make huge impacts on peoples lives, whether it is pushing boundaries in medical fields enabling surgeons to see overlaid information about a patient and almost give them 'x-ray' vision during procedures, to making advertising much more interactive and giving the users the option to pretty much get endless information about current environments (depending on internet connections).
In the future continued development of AR will result in some very life changing applications for people all over the world in all walks of life. Some applications may cause problems and raise issues on privacy and information being freely available. But mostly the applications will aid everyday life and become a social norm.
The technology could benefit the sight impaired by using text to speech technology to convey information gathered about the immediate environment from their Smartphone's such as location and directions to shops or overall assistance with navigating their immediate environment which one day could mean the need for guide dogs and/or carers is redundant. Giving the user a new found independence, therefore a much better quality of life.
Augmented Reality can give the user almost 'super human' like abilities such as being able to effectively see through objects living or not by graphically generating what is behind an obstruction be it metal or human flesh. This could mean huge benefits for all industries including the medical field. As CT scans could be taken of a patient which afterwards could be transferred into Augmented Reality which when the doctor/surgeon put on their choice of display (most probably goggles/glasses) would mean they could see into the patients body from all angles in real time. This could save the need for intrusive surgery and make diagnosis more efficient and quicker.
Combined with spatial displays the need for fixed displays (such as monitors, mobile phone screens) could be redundant. As the AR content would be displayed on a surface of your choice and using tracking, the users movements could result as inputs for the software. For example a keyboard could be projected onto a surface that would be a keyboard, which could almost lead to 100% portable computing in a tiny package.
Used with advertising Augmented Reality could enhance prospective buyers experiment with new products. Instead of having to remember the model or website of the advertised product, users could point their Smartphone's at the advertisement and be sent information on the product, promotions, reviews etc. The user could even be shown nearby shops that sell the products and compare prices.
Whilst on the topic of products, shops and shop fronts could be revolutionised with AR, as users could be able to identify where items are located in the shop, to streamline the shopping experience. Users could try on clothes virtually by standing in front of an AR mirror (like used in certain shops in Japan) and be able to get feedback from assistants that don't have to be in the immediate environment.
If physical media is still used by the masses in the future users could point their Smartphone's at film cases to see extra content such as trailers and interviews for the film to give the viewer a sneak peek before purchasing the film without having to look up trailers or shorts for films.
The potential of augmented reality will change everyone's lives. The result will be more efficient and streamlined workflows and day-to-day tasks. From everything like shopping to exploring your immediate environment, AR will lead to a fully connected world.
People will no longer have to look things up if they want to go somewhere, they will just have to point their Smartphone around their immediate environment to find a place of their choice. They can view reviews and the menu before even stepping inside and if busy easily look for close by locations.
Information will be more accessible than ever with information about a subject or location available in an instant by aiming a device at the subjects. With users able to contribute their own content and make their own markers around environments it will be much easier for people to share content, be it informative, multimedia, or just memories for others to view and relive. Sure this will be open for who ever to find, but if users wanted privacy they could specify on certain people to be able to view the content. But in the growing online age people are becoming more comfortable and open to sharing content with anyone and everyone as privacy isn't as sought after online as much anymore.
Being able to share content leads to community. And community is networking. With AR networking will be as easy as pointing your Smartphone at someone to find out their profile and create a link with this person to freely communicate and share content. With early builds of a new AR application this idea is slowly becoming a reality, but there are ethical concerns as identities could easily become up for grabs and no one will be anonymous. Although this could be sorted by setting privacy settings, to some this would all seem a bit sketchy. Sadly this defeats the point of the concept as to be able to socially network with people you need to know who they are and as many will use these applications honestly and morally, there will always be some who use it for personal agendas and for negative deeds.
Personally I think this application would be great to be able to work out who your fellow peers are and what they have done/are working on. Or just to see what they have been 'tweeting' about and generally what sort of person they are.
I will now go over in more detail the links to digital art in the art community. Many artists such as Bill Seasman and Jeff Shaw have used Augmented Reality for their art works, but none have defined the links to digital art, or even defined digital art themselves.
Christiane Paul claims in her introduction that digital art is work that uses any form of computer technology either as a tool for production ending up, for example, as a digital print or fabricated sculpture or as a real-time medium where the piece is stored and presented in a digital format such as interactive software that plays sound or Internet art we see on a screen (Paul. 2003: p8).
Paul also defines digital art as 'work that exclusively uses the digital platform from production to presentation, and that it exhibits and explores that platform's inherent possibilities' (Paul. 2003: p67). In a way Augmented Reality could also be classified as new media as it is mobile and locative media that drives the technology behind it all.
From using her definition of digital art it is safe to assume that Augmented Reality is a part of digital art. This is because content is created using computer technology and the resulted works are presented is real time in a digital format. AR is dynamic and totally depends on inputs varying from all most anything, but mainly the two key inputs are geographical location and subject's location depending on the user. AR pushes and explores the platforms possibilities employing many technical abilities to create a successful Augmented Reality application, and it does it all very well.
Pablo Valbuena is a digital artist who delves into AR and spatial displays (projection). The two layers (physical and virtual) explore the different aspects of space-time reality. Space and time is something AR deals with all the time, as it exists in time and a space, but only in a virtual space previously unseen to the viewer.
Clara Boj and Diego Diaz created a great AR piece that was a sightseeing telescope named 'Observatorio(Observatory)' it was similar to their 2004 piece 'Red Libre Red Visible' that focused on making a web of free accessible WiFi for all through the creation of visible networks mixing physical public space with digital public space. The duo are renowned for creating pieces that focus on elements of hertzian space, mostly in particular WiFi networks are their subject of choice.
Observatorio visibly showed WiFi in a city environment allowing the user to visualize different networks and their attributes such as strength, coverage and security (private or open network).
The installation included a high powered uni-directional WiFi antenna with a 30deg aperture which is able to detect wireless networks within 1 to 4 kilometers (depending on conditions and obstructions). To enable the user to see the WiFi spots a video surveillance camera equipped with a telephoto lens (that has the same 30deg aperture) is linked to a periscope device which also overlays the mapped WiFi networks in real time in their appropriate geographical locations. At the same time the Observatorio, separate to the display space, will send data from its observation spot to the exhibition hall where it is projected onto a large display space (Regine. 2008).
Clara Boj and Deigo Diaz also created an AR system called 'AR_Magic System'. This enabled users to stand next to each other and virtually swap heads, so each other's heads would be virtually overlaid onto the live image. This was a research project but they also used it as an instillation at galleries around the world.
Augmented Reality can be linked to the collage technique developed in the Dada movement during 1916 to 1922. As AR could be seen to create collage works as content is overlaid onto images in a collage style. Depending on where the user and subject are, content can also be totally interweaved with the environment on screen, or even off screen using spatial displays (projection).
Conceptualist is not something I would say Augmented Reality is, as you are not given instructions with how you should go about using it. How you use AR is up to the user and unless the task is to find a given location in space and time where something is virtually active, I feel there is nothing conceptualist about it. If the user had to programme the AR software to get the piece to work then it would be, but I have not seen or heard of an AR art piece of that description.
Ties to surrealism can also be seen in the concept behind AR as the founding movement wanted to revolutionise human experience. AR does this through acting like a 6th sense giving the user the ability to take in content that would not necessarily have been clear to the senses before. Information can be clearly conveyed in a very simple way. Virtual content amongst the real world is surreal enough, and Augmented Reality is the window in which we look through to see this surrealism.
Currently AR is still aimed at the small niche market that is the people who are aware of Augmented Reality and what it can do. The only reason Augmented Reality is not very wide spread at this moment in time is that not many people are aware of what AR even is. But with the wide spread of Smartphone's people will soon begin to become more aware of AR applications and the great possibilities that come from these. Social networking will undergo another rapid increase of users as people become keen to make their identity online to go with their real persona. Users will become less dependent on finding out information through word of mouth and through own research in the comfort of their own homes and be more inclined to just get out into the environment to explore and discover information through their handsets combined with the power of AR. Everyday tasks will be transformed and like any technology the mass audience will find themselves using it like second nature and after a while it will be taken for granted with users puzzled at how they managed without the technology years before its wide spread appeal.
With the raving success of Apple's iPhone, and the promising efforts of the Android platform, the mass audience will finally be embracing AR. 2010 may well be the year of Augmented Reality.
AR is expanding the boundaries of digital art in a way that is almost fantasy. The ability to leave art in a space and time that only a users device can enable them to see will change digital art and the way things are presented and perceived. It will also drive people to explore and set out to find content in Augmented Reality and to even distribute their own content through the medium as well.
Of all the technology seen as digital art, I would class Augmented Reality as a very important technology key to our world in the next few years. Not only because of what is possible with it to help mankind but also to essentially create an entire art world that is in AR, which is seen by only those who care and are interested. Almost like a true underground culture, but bigger and possible to be everywhere and anywhere in any given space or time. All you need is to look through to the right dimension, the Augmented Reality dimension.
That to me would truly be digital art.
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