We could say that augmented reality had its beginnings no less than at the dawning of ‘900: the writer L. Frank Baum, author well-known for his popular “The wizard of Oz”, in 1901 was the first one theorizing an electronic display that could add data to reality. For many, anyway, the birth of this technology dates to the beginning of the ’60s, when Morton Heilig invented his Sensorama, a machine that could augment reality with visual content, sounds, vibrations and smells.

There are then many other milestones until our days, but we think it’s reasonable to start talking about a real development of augmented reality as we know it around 2008, when for the first time this technology was mentioned inside the Gartner’s Annual Report about emerging technologies. The document predicted a development of augmented reality after at least ten years.

In 2009 were born the first realities joining augmented reality and geolocalization, based mostly on GPS coordinates: we are talking about Wikitude, Junaio and Layar.

It will be from 2010-2011, anyway, that the augmented reality field will finally start to seriously develop, thanks to the growth of the invested budgets and the development of the smartphones’ market. It will be in this period that the software will start reading always more data: starting from barcodes, QR codes and AR markers, they will soon reach image recognition and other advanced methods. These are the years during which some of the biggest player of augmented reality market are born: their names are Blippar, Zappar and Aurasma.
Also, 2010 was the year that another important AR reality was born: its name was Quest Visual and it was an app for automatic translation from a language to another thanks to augmented reality. Does this reminds something to you? That’s right: Quest Visual will be purchased by Google in 2014 and it will become one of the most famous features of Google Translate.

During these last years, the use of augmented reality and the creation of apps related to it have grown, but probably not as much as it was expected: this technology is not yet finding a space in the users’ daily life, not even of the passionate ones. Why? Probably it is because the big companies in this field focused more on the number of big brands they could get experimenting with the new marketing frontiers instead of widening the trend on the market.

Nonetheless, Gartner’s data seems to be confirmed from the previsions: between 2018 and 2019 it seems that the reach of augmented reality mobile market will be around $2.4 billion in revenues.

If we say augmented reality, the first things that comes to our minds are holograms and images superimposed to reality: we are talking about virtual factors going to add information (to augment, indeed) to what we see. From now on, however, we will have to keep in mind that augmented reality can have also a physical consistency: we have to thank the project BitDrones, created by a group of researchers of Queen’s University’s Human Media Lab, for giving us a new way of conceiving this tech field.

BitDrones is a system composed by little and light-weight flying nano-drones coming in different kinds and functionalities: there are PixelDrones, with a little led screen to display information; ShapeDrones, augmented with a light-weight mesh and a 3D printed geometric frame, that serve as building blocks for 3D models; and DisplayDrones, with a touch screen interface. All three kind of drones, as well as the user’s hand motion and touch, are individually tracked and positioned in real time via motion capture technology. This is how interaction is made possible and the bricks can be manipulated in space to create complex 3D models.

Dr. Vertegaal, director of Human Media Lab, said: “We call this a Real Reality interface rather than a Virtual Reality interface. This is what distinguishes it from technologies such as Microsoft HoloLens and the Oculus Rift: you can actually touch these pixels, and see them without a headset.”

For now the BitDrones system, at the moment at its first version, supports about a dozen of drones with big sizes (from 2.5” to 5”), but the development team is working on a new version capable to manage thousands of smaller size drones (half inch) allowing users to render more seamless, high resolution programmable matter.

Find more in the video below:

Every technology fan knows the problem: to have all your app always with you means to walk around carrying many devices, sometimes even big, e.g. tablets. And if we tell you that in few time you will be able to say goodbye to bags, backpacks and cases?

That’s what will happen soon: the times of busy hands could be at their end since a group of japanese researchers are working on a system that will transform the human arm into a tablet, complete of comfortable keyboard and maybe an app interface. The company is the NEC Corporation and recently announced the creation of the system “ARmKeyPad” that, using augmented reality, projects a keyboard on the arm of the user, leaving his hands free for other uses.

The ARmKeyPad is made of two elements: a pair of eyeglasses and a smart watch; the glasses display the keys on the arm and detect the finger movements, while the watch changes the keyboard visualization tracking the wearer’s motion.

The device is made thinking mostly of the work ambient; in fact, among the strong points that the company highlighted, there are the fact of offering more advantage over other wearable devices that are operated via voice recognition, since they can’t be used in loud environments (as factories and workshops), and also that the workers don’t have to carry around any remote.

Shin Norieda, one of the researchers at NEC, said: “I wanted to make a keyboard of the body so I created this device for people who work in maintenance or factory jobs; they can just go hands-free.”

For the moment NEC didn’t give any sure release date or price of the double device, but revealed that its team is working on it to be released during 2016.

Do you know that 75% of people get distracted while driving, and the most frequent distractions come from a mobile phone? And also that 22% of all auto accidents occur when drivers are multitasking or due to low visibility conditions on roads?

These and others are the problems to which an innovative project wants to put the word “end”: its name is Hudway Glass and it’s ending its Kickstarter campaign right in these hours, after abundantly passing the preset goal (at the moment they raised more than $571.000 on a goal of $100.000). The project wants to create and put on the market a universal vehicle accessory that turns your smartphone into a Head-Up Display (HUD); here comes into play augmented reality, since the data are projected from our smartphone directly on the windshield of our car, letting us drive in a comfortable and safer way.

The device itself is made of a simple smartphone cradle that you can put on top of your dashboard and a transparent plastic lens reflecting and enhancing key pieces of data displayed by your phone.
The user can choose among different apps using GPS and accelerometer to receive data about his position, driving speed and navigation.

The Hudway Glass project is the result of three years of study and follows the development of an app for iOS and Android that, saying it with the creators’ words, has transformed their vision on how cell phones can be used in a car. The app is visually simple and puts in the first place the usefulness: the data visualization is limited to the main ones, showing them large, and not too distracting.

In conclusion, judging also from the amount of money raised by the project, it seems that Hudway found the way for creating a device that joins usefulness and low budget.

Expo 2015 just ended and Experenti took part in it too: in the occasion of this event, we created an app to augment the cultural, natural and enogastronomic paths of Veneto, a wonderful region of Northern Italy.

The app is called “Veneto Experience” and it’s been created to apply experiential marketing to the promotion of the territory: thanks to augmented reality it is possible to know Veneto’s history and excellence products, choosing the right itinerary for us.

How does it work? It’s easy! You just have to find the visual material linked to the initiative and to download the app, freely available for Android and iOS; now you just have to focus on the tags on flyers and promotional material and…to live the experience of exploring the rich territory of this marvelous region in an innovative and interactive way!

– You want to browse among all the available places? The app offers maps with dynamic POI (point of interest): focusing with your mobile device, the map of Veneto comes to life and shows the various point of interest; on the side you’ll find a menu to choose the categories you prefer: you can visualize pins related to nature, art and culture, industry, handicraft, agribusiness or touristic services.
When touching the pins on the screen an augmented reality pop-up will appear, showing information about the place and related images.

– First time in Veneto and you don’t know what to choose? Veneto Experience can help you: in addition to the thematic POI, the app lets you choose also between four set itineraries, studied to focus on just as many excellences.

– If this isn’t enough, there’s another feature that will make you say WOW: do you know the winged lion, symbol of Venice? Well, he will be your special guide! Inside the app you will find an augmented reality virtual assistant with the venetian lion appearance; he will answer your questions and help you creating the right map, guiding you through interests, topics and zones.

Today we want to talk about one of the most mysterious companies on the international high tech market: Google invested no less than $542 million and, right in the last days, another global colossus as Alibaba (for those not knowing it, it’s the leader company in the world of Chinese e-commerce) declared to be ready to write a cheque for $200 million. Did you understand who we are talking about? Of Magic Leap, of course.

All we know about this company is that they are working on a big augmented reality-related project, about which from time to time we receive some little updates that are leaving us with a true wow. During last days they released another video, shoot inside the company’s offices as the previous ones, that shows a live demonstration of the product they are working on:

Doesn’t it remind you of anything? If you already tried our demo, surely you will feel some kind of deja vu 😉

But the news related to the mysterious company are not ended! Again during last days, Magic Leap’s CEO Rony Abovitz said: “We’re actually gearing up to build millions of things; we’re not ready to announce when we’re shipping, but it gives you a signal that we’re not fa.”

The announcement adds mystery to mystery: so Magic Leap is preparing to the production of headsets? It seems the answer is yes: Abovitz gave some sporadic hint saying that it will be a little device, that people will feel comfortable to take around.

If all this was not enough already, an additional declaration left everyone surprised and curious; the company’s chief content officer, Rio Caraeff, said that the ultimate vision for Magic Leap is to create a broad-based platform for visual computing: “Anything you can do on a smartphone, you can do with Magic Leap, where the world is your screen.”

Useless to say that the world of augmented reality fans is once more pretty excited.

The next brand entering the market of augmented reality headsets? It could be no less than Amazon!

It seems that, after Facebook, Microsoft and Google, the e-commerce American colossus will make its entrance in the world of augmented reality, or that at least they are thinking on it. The update comes from the US Patent and Trademark Office, that about a week ago published the news of a patent application by Amazon related to a pair of glasses that seem perfect to be used for augmented reality. From the project it seems that these glasses will be connecting, we still don’t know if wireless or not, to a smart device (a tablet or a smartphone?) and they will be able to superimpose images to what we see through the lenses in front of our eyes. Also there will be a functionality that, with a simple tap of the device screen, would make the augmented images transparent again, so we don’t have to take the glasses off of our face when we don’t need them.

“On the one hand, a large screen is beneficial for watching movies, playing games and even reading email comfortably,” reads the patent, which was originally filed more than two years ago. “On the other hand, the larger the screen, the bigger the device, which may be less desirable for a light and portable product. Another problem consumers experience with portable devices, like tablet devices, is the lack of ability to immerse themselves in a tablet experience, such as watching a movie on an airplane.”

This explains the importance of having a device that can make us live an experience but that is also light and portable. And which one better than a pair of glasses?

Imagine the potentiality of a device like this in the case of Amazon and their service Prime Instant Video: it’s easy to understand why, after the flop of the Fire smartphone, the company decided to continue anyway its research in the hardware field, isn’t it? 😉

Italy is becoming pretty technologic about tourism, especially when linked to the historical and archeological heritage: after the augmented reality reconstruction of Ara Pacis (you can find the article here) , now it’s the turn of Trajan’s Forum!

Thanks to the project “Museo Glass Beacon: the museum of the future“, it will in fact be possible to take a unforgettable visit of the Imperial Forums Museum in the Trajan’s Markets, during which we will be able to experience the museum path in a completely new and immersive way. The monuments will come to life in front of our eyes thanks to an app created ad hoc and the use of augmented reality viewers Glass and Beacons: information, text, images, video or an audio file about fourteen main monuments inside the path ill appear in front of us thanks to the Beacons that, as we approach them, will activate the augmented reality glasses.

This project is the result of the competition “Future Culture” announced by Regione Lazio last year, open to young creatives and aimed to the realization of an hardware and software product with multimedia characteristics for the innovative fruition of cultural events and contents; the competition has been won by Mirko Di Ciaccio with this project, that has been accepted straight away by the Museum and supported by Sovrintendenza Capitolina dei Beni Culturali, then made technically possible by ETT S.p.a.

For two months, from October 14 to December 14, inside the Imperial Forums Museum in the Trajan’s Markets will be possible to receive for free one of the 9 augmented reality viewers Glass and to experience the emotion of seeing one of Italian archeological heritage come to life.

We think this is a good occasion to enjoy one of the major archeological marvels on the Italian ground in a unforgettable way: don’t miss it!

Did you like this topic? Experenti creates also augmented reality solutions for tourism: try them with our free app (iOSAndroid) after downloading the example tags.

Augmented reality, for its own nature, can easily become an upgrade of the human body; among the many avant-garde projects, this is confirmed also by the new headset created by University College London’s Interactive Architecture Lab, that will make possible to see what we have around without moving our heads.

Its name is PolyEyes 2.0 and, in its bizarre shape, it reminds of an hammerhead shark but lets you see as a chameleon: this headset features a Raspberry Pi camera module on each side, able to rotate close to 180-degrees, so the wearer can have a wider view than the normal one. The view field inside the helmet is separated in two half, and every of the two parts shows the projections of what the two cameras are shooting around us: this is how the wider vision is made possible.

PolyEyes 2.0 is part of a bigger and more ambitious project, that aims to the creation of a complete suit that will make possible for a person to feel what another person is experiencing. This suit is called “Polymelia Suit” and it’s made of many prosthesis: the idea is that, once wore all this, it will send to another person what we are feeling, doing or seeing; the other person will experience the emotion of being us.

Saying it with Interactive Architecture Lab’ words: “We think of the body as the original prosthesis we all learn to manipulate, so that any replacement or extension becomes part of a continuing process of upgrading the human entity.”

Disney augments coloring books

There were no doubts about the fact that Disney understood the potentialities of augmented reality: here on Experenti’s blog we talked already about their new projects related to this technology, e.g. the collaboration with Hasbro for the development of the line of toy accessories Playmation and the creation of Star Wars official app.

Now Disney returns to the children world with a project that will be very appreciated also from moms and dads; ask yourself which is one of the most loved activity by your children and you’ll be close enough to what we are talking about: say goodbye to felt tips stains on their clothes or drawings on the walls, because the revolution of coloring books is near!

Disney’s project has been presented on 29th September at the International Symposium on Mixed and Augmented Reality by the Research & Development team stationed in Zurich; it doesn’t have a name yet, but it was possible to see it in action…and it was awesome!

Thanks to a software based on Unity game engine and to the mobile app available for iOS and Android, looking through a tablet or smartphone display, it will be possible to see our character come to life while we color it, with the hues we choose. Pretty a revolution in the world of children’s creativity, isn’t it? Also a way to give a good use to the mobile devices that every day are used more even from the youngest ones.

This isn’t the first project that tries to merge augmented reality and coloring books: earlier there has been the experience of Color Alive series, a collaboration between Crayola and the AR developers DAQRI; however this project was different, since it was possible to augment the drawing once it was finished, not while coloring it.