Augmented Reality & GeoWeb

Monday, 09 April 2007

Institute for the Future (IFTF) and IEEE : Survey on Breakthrough Technologies

David Pescovitz (a.o. from BoingBoing) on a short survey done with the IFTF and IEEE on the next fifty years of innovation. When will 3D-TV and the universal language translator become mainstream ? And what about quantum computing, cold fusion, speech recognition, virtual 3D worlds, ubiquitous/pervasive computing, mass space travel, robotics, genetic/DNA profiling, solar energy, nanotechnology, 3D printing/desktop fabs, RFID, brain-machine interfaces, simulations of all human senses and fuel cells ?

As the IEEE is at the very forefront of many technological advances, this is an important survey. They rave about RFID and ubiquitous computing just like I did in Q1 2005 in this post.

Below a quote from this survey on virtual 3D worlds. This strikes me as it is strongly related to Transformation and Serious Gaming/Simulations. In fact, it is a very powerful combination of these trends on personal/individual level in a real sense. In my earlier post on Identity, Authenticiy and Creativity you can read similar thoughts. We have learned by playing Sims and other games that there is "un-do button" to boost tactical and strategic learning. Now, we can soon extend this functionality into our real lives beforehand. Amazing ! This will increase self awareness and the current health trends.

"Most Fellows believe that within 10 years, interactive computer graphics will be so lifelike that it will be hard to distinguish on screen between what is real and what is “virtual.” Everyone will be able to do sophisticated simulations that let them see, hear and even feel inputs and outputs. Computing pioneer Alan Kay believes that we are at the dawn of a new type of literacy—simulation literacy. Imagine running simulations of your own life, say, by asking how you would look if you lived on a vegan diet or ran 16 kilometers a day."

Friday, 30 March 2007

On Danny Hillis, eLearning, Freebase, Metaweb, Semantic Web and Web 3.0

A highly recommended and very long post from Edge on Danny Hillis and his view on the future evolution of the web with interesting comments from leading thinkers like Stewart Brand (GBN), Jaron Lanier, Douglas Rushkoff, Marc Hauser, Bruce Sterling (Wired, WorldChanging), Esther Dyson, Freeman Dyson and Howard Gardner. It touches many, many emergent web trends.

Semantic Web or Web 3.0 is about the World Wide Database instead of WWW. It is about structured, more machine readable data and information on the web. It is about advanced and accellerating eLearning, the next phase of the web after the current entertainment and community phase within Web 2.0. Focusing in factual and procedural knowledge. There are many interesting and current case studies integrating some aspects or technologies of the semantic web. Examples: FreeBase, Hakia, Radar Networks, MetaWeb, Joost and RealTravel. While I am not 100% sure about this at this moment, I do believe Google Base can be included in this space as well. It combines structured data with bottom-up, collective tagging systems.

What does this all mean ?
- Machine learning -> more outsourcing of (factual) tasks to bots and agents -> people will devote more time towards local low-end services, higher-level (symbolic) thinking and other human-specific skills/talents like soft skills (intuitive creativity, communicative/emotional/social skills). 
- Better search engine results/experiences -> higher productivity and more innovation
- More self-aware/correcting nature of online articles/posts dynamically integrating feedback loops on predictions in their texts. This allows for more easily deciphering the true nature of experts making future claims in their fields. This is a boost for reputational systems. Think more structured Wikipedia self regulation.
- Better data remixes/mash-ups -> higher productivity and more innovation
- Less impact of SEO (spam) tactics due to rise of structured and verified (!) data (formats) like PICS, Content Labels and microformats. The content of (commercial) websites will be indexed more authentically bringing back a better search engine experience for end users
- Deepens the impact, breadth and relevance of Mixed and Augmented Reality (AR) applications

Most importantly in my view is that a Knowledge Web has to take into account the mental, evolutionary state of the recipient as to be truly effective. Communication and learning is a two-way street. How does the Knowledge Web know about this mental state ? Through personalization ? Behavorial, contextual, profiled, social networked history ? Through emotional sensing ? MIT and DARPA (Pentagon) are working on these (recipient) items as well (Emotional Computing and Cognitive Augmentation).

"As useful as the Web is, it still falls far short of Alexander's tutor or even Vennavar Bush's Memex. For one thing, the Web knows very little about you (except maybe your credit card number). It has no model of how you learn, or what you do and do not know—or, for that matter, what it does and does not know. The information in the Web is disorganized, inconsistent, and often incorrect. Yet for all its faults, the Web is good enough to give us a hint of what is possible.

It is changing the way we learn. For example, one topic in the knowledge web might be Kepler's third law (that the square of a planet's orbital period is proportional to the cube of its distance from the sun). This concept would be connected to examples and demonstrations of the law, experiments showing that it is true, graphical and mathematical descriptions, stories about the history of its discovery, and explanations of the law in terms of other concepts. For instance, there might be a mathematical explanation of the law in terms of angular momentum, using calculus. Such an explanation might be perfect for a calculus-loving student who is familiar with angular momentum. Another student might prefer a picture or an interactive simulation. The database would contain information, presumably learned from experience, about which explanations would work well for which student. It would contain representations of many successful paths to understanding Kepler's law.

In retrospect the key idea in the "Aristotle" essay was this: if humans could contribute their knowledge to a database that could be read by computers, then the computers could present that knowledge to humans in the time, place and format that would be most useful to them.  The missing link to make the idea work was a universal database containing all human knowledge, represented in a form that could be accessed, filtered and interpreted by computers.

One might reasonably ask: Why isn't that database the Wikipedia or even the World Wide Web? The answer is that these depositories of knowledge are designed to be read directly by humans, not interpreted by computers. They confound the presentation of information with the information itself. The crucial difference of the knowledge web is that the information is represented in the database, while the presentation is generated dynamically. Like Neal Stephenson's storybook, the information is filtered, selected and presented according to the specific needs of the viewer.

Most search engines are about algorithms and statistics without structure, while databases have been solely about structure until now, Esther Dyson said."In the middle there is something that represents things as they are," she said. "Something that captures the relationships between things." That addition has long been a vision of researchers in artificial intelligence. "It's like a system for building the synapses for the global brain," said Tim O'Reilly."

Monday, 26 March 2007

Mobile Augmented Reality: Nokia Pushes The Edges

This post from Technology Review is about mobile augmented reality, one of the 10 most promising technologies according to MIT. I agree. This advanced technology will probably be used due to its inherent great usability and intuitiveness. This sheds new light on current developments like QR codes, semacodes, barcodes and RFID readers in mobile devices, although they can co-exist in my view. The available codes/tags still have value, albeit in more particular settings with very particular objects (supermarktes, museums, billboards and other traditional marketing media etc.).

"Last October, a team led by Markus Kähäri unveiled a proto­type of the system at the International Symposium on Mixed and Augmented Reality. The team added a GPS sensor, a compass, and accelerometers to a Nokia smart phone. Using data from these sensors, the phone can calculate the location of just about any object its camera is aimed at. Each time the phone changes location, it retrieves the names and geographical coördinates of nearby landmarks from an external database. The user can then download additional information about a chosen location from the Web--say, the names of businesses in the Empire State Building, the cost of visiting the building's observatories, or hours and menus for its five eateries."

Sunday, 03 December 2006

On Google Your Life, Total Recall and Creativity

This article from Fast Company shows us a very broad and deep overview of the topic of digitization of our lives (Flickr, YouTube, geotagging, blogs etc.). It is a great story about a.o. Gordon Bell, total recall, the sources of creativity and daydreaming, search engines, agents, LifeBrowser, MyLifeBits, SenseCam, FacetMap, DevonThink and Remembrance Agent. Strongly resonates with my postings on Augmented Reality and Steve Mann from MIT as a first cyborg. New concepts like Bliin might be a new way in this respect to present and organize the different LifeBits content on a global scale.

Recommended reading even though this article is quite long.

"This turns out to be the central question behind MyLifeBits: Yes, it's possible to store a lifetime of memories, but what do you do with them? To figure that out, I made a visit to Mary Czerwinski, a principal research scientist at Microsoft Research Labs whose team has developed "Facetmap," an audacious piece of software designed to visualize the contents of Bell's cybermemory.

When I meet the energetic, hyperverbal Czerwinski, she pulls me over to a massive 3-foot-by-3-foot LCD monitor on her office wall. On-screen there's a collection of colorful blobs representing different parts of Bell's life. There's a blob for people, another for calendar dates, and a bunch for different types of documents like email or Word files. She shows me how it works: If you click on any blob, it instantly expands to show you everything it contains. Click on the blob for "Jim Gemmell," Bell's main collaborator, and you'll see a blob containing all their email traffic, another with documents that mention Gemmell's name, and a third with events where he appears. The more data in each category, the bigger the blob, "so you can quickly see which area has had the most action," she notes. But the truly intriguing part about Facetmap is that it shows how Bell's information is connected."

Sunday, 19 November 2006

The Prague Files: Alternate Reality Game to Surpass MOGI in Japan ?

This article from CNET is about Alternate Reality Gaming (ARG), a very interesting field to me as it touches the emerging fields of GeoWeb (e.g. Google Earth+Maps) as well as Augmented Reality (e.g. Steve Mann/MIT). It reminds me of the success of the mobile game in Japan called MOGI a few years back. However, the revenue model of The Prague Files seems too high a threshold to me to be really successful. But I do believe the mobile device will be the hub of key upcoming successful cross media gaming concepts in the near future combining GPS, real life, GeoWeb data/reviews, desktop players, IM, SMS, e-mail, push2talk, chatbots and (mobile) social networking services. Both individually as well as more importantly collectively in groups, mainly targeted at youngsters and students due to their time schedules.

"The experience becomes a lot richer the more you delve into the game," Benton said. "Obviously you're not going to win (if you only play a few minutes a day), but it's still something you can be involved in...You can feel like you're a spy for two weeks. So it really scales to a player's involvement." To Jane McGonigal, a senior designer at 42 Entertainment, which created "I Love Bees" and many other well-known ARGs, "The Prague Files" seems like an interesting attempt to encapsulate the ARG genre into a short time frame and an easy-to-understand format.

One major difference between games like "I Love Bees" and "The Prague Files" is that the former was a free game that asked its players to go out into the real world, work together and solve complex clues. By comparison, "The Prague Files" costs $6.95 to play, and doesn't require players to do much beyond use their cell phones and computers to figure out the puzzle. To be sure, a lively forum is expected to arise on the Live Games Network's Web site, but players should be able to solve clues on their own."

Sunday, 18 June 2006

Avatar Based Marketing in Web 3.0

Yme Bosma had a very powerful post about an article in the Harvard Business School on avatar based marketing within 3D online worlds. Highly recommended reading due to the high impact nature for marketing, branding and digital media in general. From my perspective we can witness the convergence of the following concepts and trends in digital media:

  • Web 3.0 worlds like OpenCroquet and Second Life
  • Augmented Reality/GeoWeb games like MOGI in Japan connecting the online/mobile worlds with the real world
  • GeoWeb tools like Google Earth

These 3D virtual worlds connect with the thinking of Sherry Turkle in her book called Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet. I strongly believe these 3D worlds will enhance the transformation of individuals and even organizations by taking the concept of ENGAGEMENT to the next level.

"Whom do your marketing efforts target? The flesh-and-blood Second Life members who gave their credit card numbers to register for the game—or their Second Life avatars residing in the virtual world? Sure, the real-world human controls the real-world wallet. The avatar, though, arguably represents a distinctly different “shadow” consumer, one able to influence its creator’s purchase of real-world products and conceivably make its own real-world purchases in the virtual world. At the least, it may offer insights into its creator’s hidden tastes.

Such questions aren’t academic. Second Life is just one of a growing number of three-dimensional virtual worlds, accessible via the Internet, in which users, through an avatar, are able to play games or simply interact socially with thousands of people simultaneously. By some estimates, more than 10 million people spend $10 to $15 a month to subscribe to online role-playing environments, with the number of subscribers doubling every year. Millions more enter free sites, some of them sponsored by companies as brand-building initiatives. Many users spend upward of 40 hours a week in these worlds. And as the technology improves over the next decade, virtual worlds may well eclipse film, TV, and non–role-playing computer games as a form of entertainment. That’s because, instead of watching someone else’s story unfold in front of them on a screen, users in these worlds create and live out their own stories.

Movies are even made in these worlds, using computer game technology, a form of filmmaking dubbed “machinima.” Avatars take on scripted roles, thus creating in these plays within plays characters that are two steps removed from their real-life creators. You might call them avatars’ avatars.

For starters, avatars are certainly useful subjects for market research. “Marketing depends on soliciting people’s dreams,” says Henry Jenkins, head of MIT’s Comparative Media Studies program. “And here those dreams are on overt display.” For instance, a company could track how inhabitants of a virtual world use or otherwise interact with a particular type of product, noting choices they make about product features, wardrobe mix, or even virtual vacation destinations."

Sunday, 09 October 2005

Digital maps: an update

Key overarching trends in general and withing digital media in particular are:

  • Visualisation (multimedia web, 3D, data modelling, mapping, Kartoo search)
  • Personalisation (historical/transactional (DNA, genealogy), browsing/actual, predefined, recommendation engines, social networked personalisation (Eurekster search for example) etc.)
  • Localisation (MoSoSo/dating strengthening this trend for example)

This post digs into some recent issues and applications concerning digital maps taking these 3 trends into account. Google Earth is pivotal in this case. I believe there are 2 routes to the search: first textual information, followed by visual information (standard/classic route information). Alternatively, you browse visually from the start, followed by textual information. I strongly believe this is the real revolutionary impact of Google Earth and similar Augmented Reality and GeoWeb applications as human beings tend to prefer visual information above textual. Google Earth above all in my view is about changing search habits. It is more fun and intuitive than traditional textual search.  And it is more functional as you can SEE immediately the recommendations and locations of your personal network as well as real-time public overlayed information concerning particular locations. In my view this is one of the reasons why Google is valued at 91 billion dollars market cap at this point. The upside potential and business value of Google Earth combined with the other Google innovations is immense and at this point it seems as though AOL, Microsoft and Yahoo lack behind.

"In 2005, anyone can have a god's-eye view. MapQuest began doing rudimentary online maps in 1996. Google acquired digital 3-D mapmaker Keyhole in 2004, and with the resulting Google Earth, explorers are able to find the nearest dry cleaner or tapas joint anywhere on the planet, a capacity that corporate advertisers are bound to exploit. But maybe that's not what maps are for. At their best, they're user interfaces to the world, connecting places and people. Google has figured this out - the company knows its maps are only as good as the refinements made by users. In June, it gave away the code to its maps, as did Yahoo! Now an army of amateurs is flooding the Web with map-based analyses. lets users evaluate Windy City neighborhoods based on police data. Gmaps Pedometer lays out distances between any two points. And Squid Labs is working on augmented-reality screens that embed tags into 3-D space so you can tour a museum or battlefield and readily footnote what you see. And what's more brilliant than those open source subway maps optimized for an iPod screen?"

Monday, 16 May 2005

PsychNology: scientific content on Presence

For those of you interested in the scientific progress concerning the concepts of presence, mobile phones, GeoWeb and VR, this link might be a good starting point, especially from Ms. Rettie.

"PsychNology Journal was established in 2002. The term 'PsychNology' results from the merge of two words, Psychology and Technology, and has been chosen in order to emphasize the tight relationship  connecting the two concepts. PsychNology Journal is interested in observing, analyzing and exploring the human side of technology from a multidisciplinary vantage point (Psychology, Sociology, Anthropology, Cognitive Science, Cultural Studies, Arts, Human Factors, Literature, Communication Studies, Education, History, Economy, Philosophy), in order to favor knowledge exchange in this wide topic area. PNJ offers the added value of an on-line electronic journal in terms of format (no additional costs for colors and videos, off-prints and registration), and freshness, in comparison with the long period of time required to publish on a paper journal. Its open access policy accepts the invitation by various international associations to increase accessibility of scientific content (see a timeline of Open Access Movement at, at the same time warranting quality via a careful review process."

Monday, 11 April 2005

GeoWeb: some key examples

More examples of GeoWeb in the link below from the Institute For The Future

PDF document on GeoWeb applications

Thursday, 24 March 2005

Tangible interfaces, NFC and mobile phones

Tangible interfaces in the future. Nice. Saves time indeed. NFC as a short range technology also allows for temporarily sharing of content with others as to avoid DRM issues.

"What exactly is a tangible interface? We're looking at how touch can be used to execute a number of tasks or interactions so you don't have to switch contexts from the real world to the world inside the screen. For instance, one person could touch his device to someone else's and give them a "digital gift," to borrow a phrase from our old boss Marko Ahtisaari. That digital gift might be something as simple as a URL or a photo that I've taken of a moment we just shared. To set up a swap over Bluetooth might take twenty or thirty clicks. This completes the interaction with one touch. Although, for security purposes, we also have a confirm button. There's something very human about giving someone a gift while looking them in the eye and touching the devices together instead of both people squirreling away in the interfaces trying to do the data exchange."

Wednesday, 23 March 2005

Consensus Based Location: mobile tagging the world

GeoWeb (or locative media) and tagging meet in this article. Interesting, also the comments. Tagging the physical world with your mobile (or PC?) might be of interest to users for their own use (see the LifeBlog from Nokia) or by looking at the tags of others, preferably their (close) friends. I believe tagging will be restrictively presented to the end users as to avoid clutter and waste. In that sense an eventual convergence of different memes of trends is likely in this respect: mobile social software (MoSoSo), locative media with their searchable tags. Practically, this means that a friend of mine in my mobile social network leaves an interesting note or tag on a club or restaurant for example. This might be personalized (even a surprise tag?), for his network or for general public. It might be on the map closeby only (as to tease) or on a broader map (as to inform). I see value in that and the operators will benefit as this might stimulate conversations/calls based on the tag. 

"Although modern mapping systems depend heavily on computers, some of the most fundamental maps we use daily are drawn and redrawn on an ongoing basis by our own wetware. From the moment we become aware of spatial relations, we begin a complex process of constructing personal thematic maps. Maps of our mommies, daddies, bottles, favorite albums, movies, books, food, friends, pets, conversations and experiences -- anything to which we can attach associations, meaning and relationships. But these maps live on an almost subconscious level. My map of, say, the best shopping in Stockholm or the spiritually resonant zones of cyberspace, may look very different than yours. That's why the people involved in open-source mapping and locative media are so committed to helping us make our associative maps more explicit and geospatially representative. If we could only collaborate on our mapmaking, these visual aids may just help us communicate better, and start to see some of our collective challenges from a shared frame of reference."

Saturday, 19 March 2005

Reading books will never be the same

Interesting quote on new usages of Augmented Reality. Complete article from Technology Review / MIT can be read here. Reading will never be the same. Ok, it is still not mainstream but advancements are considerable. At the end of the day it boils down to the question whether it is affordable. I believe in the end it will be.

"Giant Jimmy Jones is a friendly, helpful giant. In fact, this book character is so helpful, he can make the sun shine on an otherwise gray village. The giant simply walks across the page, reaches up to the cloud cover and pushes it out of the sun's way so the villagers can catch some rays. Those light rays may be virtual, but the book this scene pops out of is not. Using augmented reality (AR), the technology behind the interactive version of Giant Jimmy Jones, New Zealand author Gavin Bishop recently collaborated with Mark Billinghurst and his colleagues at the Human Interface Technology Laboratory New Zealand (HIT Lab NZ) to turn the book into not only a storytelling device, but also a storytelling experience. A child can flip through its pages and read it like a conventional book. But with a hand-held display and computer vision tracking technology, the child can watch the story literally come to life."

Saturday, 26 February 2005

Location-based blogging: Patholog

"The goal of this [Patholog, red.] research is to explore the ability of a path-based publishing system, based upon GPS tracking technologies, to foster new relationships between communities of users and their environments. Current mobile technologies are rapidly expanding our information space, canvasing the physical environment with location-specifc media. Patholog aims to contexualize this increasingly ubiquitous location-data through an association with movement, specifically by tracking user's paths -- the places through which they have travelled. With patholog, we wish to explore these connections with our surroundings.  We want to establish this relationship on a content level that allows people using the system to perhaps see these places in a different light, to extract information from these locations that will enhance their sense of place.  By publishing weblogs based on this site-specific information, users will also have the ability to author content points and insert themselves back into the community."

Nice initiative call Patholog from the US. There seem to be two different angles to the phenomenon. One is like the project stated above and a tool called Crunkie. Sam Kinsley, and Patholog with some external links are focusing on this angle and elaborates on different examples of physical reality with virtual information on specific objects, persons or locations. Another is where there is a virtual map with virtual information related to objects or locations while browsing physical space like in Frequency 1550 and MOGI. Both are interesting from my point of view with the former having a even bigger impact on society than the latter.

Patholog will be extending its service to more visualisation, social software around path-based mobile blogging and bottom-up tagging in the near future. We'll keep you posted on all of this....