World Book Day Diminished Reality

March 11, 2013 at 7:45 pm (books, computers, kids) (, )

I hope all of you with children have gone out and got your free World Book Day books.  World Book Day is great – I really like to see anything that encourages people to buy books – not that we need any more in our house!  This year they come with something a little extra – you can download the world book day ‘Books Alive’ app (iOS and Android) and when you point your device at the book you get neat things happening.

Or maybe not so neat.  The technology is called augmented reality and it has great promise, but I’m afraid the World Book Day app is a bit of a gimmick.  For the four books we have, they only recognise the front page and then just play a video.  For one of the books, the author reads the story, which is nice, but for the others its the author saying a little about the book.  But it’s really not implemented very well – if you wiggle and it loses the book for a moment it resets.  This makes the whole experience a little like trying to watch YouTube through a wired network connection that passes through a shaky hand game – one jiggle and the video resets and starts again

And I have to say that the same thing could have been achieved a lot more reliably by using a simple QR code that links to an online video that then just plays.

This is a real wasted opportunity.  We could have had a short loop of Alfie and Annie Rose playing whilst sitting on the cover of our book.  We could have had Horrid Henry saying ‘nah nah ne nah nah’ at an appropriate page.  We could have had a scene from the Diamond Brothers or an animated Tom Gates cartoon.

Alas what we have is some cool technology that has been used to pointlessly replace the capabilities of existing technology.  For many this will be their first exposure to the world of augmented reality and most will see this and consider it far more trouble than it’s worth and in this instance I have to agree with them.  This example hasn’t provided any augmentation of the real world.  It’s just added a pointless frustration to it.  It’s a real shame.  I actually think it has detracted from the experience, by raising expectations and then disappointing.

Is there a lesson here?  Well I’d say don’t use a technology because you want to seem trendy or cool or because others are using it.  You have to use a technology because it adds something of value.  This could have added a lot.  In the end I think it took away.

The only saving grace for this one is that the kids got fed up with the tech and then settled down to read the book instead.  Maybe that was the real purpose of the technology all along?  A secret ploy to send mobile and e-book readers back to the written, paper, word?  I could live with that – I still like my books.  But I hate to say technology wasted and hate even more giving a promising technology a large exposure to a new audience and then not showing it off well.

Maybe in a few years we’ll all be wearing Google Glasses and the whole thing will just be part of the background noise of everyday life.  But for me, today, this really didn’t work out too well.  A real shame.


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Augmented Reality Sandpit

July 11, 2011 at 6:38 pm (art, computers, interesting) (, , , )

This is really cool – a new slant on augmented reality.  Take a sandpit, focus a number of cameras on it, project a load of light sources on it and add a significant amount of computer modelling and processing (I would imagine) and you can mix the real and digital in a really neat new way.

As you mould the sand the computer recreates the contours in the virtual space too.  Then things moving in the virtual space move according to the contours in the real space – and are then projected back onto it.

For full details of the project, see

Their video teasers are well worth watching –

I particularly like the bit where they put a hand in the sand.  Its like a 3D computer version of pin-art …

This could be a really interesting way to get people modelling terrain in virtual worlds or games.


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The Creative Internet

February 9, 2011 at 10:50 pm (art, computers, interesting, internet) (, , , , , , , )

Been meaning to post about this for a while now.  Google put together a presentation of loads of different Internet related projects that people have done.  Next time you see some piece of media highlighting how bad the Internet is, pick one of these at random and redress the balance a little.


Some personal favourites of mine include:

Fantastic stuff.  Tech at its best.


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Augmented Identity

May 1, 2010 at 7:01 pm (computers, interesting, science) (, , , , , , , )

I first saw this demo quite a while ago, but could not remember where.  Well, whilst browsing through some videos from New Scientist, I found a clue and now have found the video again.

Its a marketing video from a Swedish company called The Astonishing Tribe.  And its certainly a very interesting view of a potential future.  There are lots of applications for Augmented Reality and mobile phones, but one ‘holy grail’ still eludes people – accurate face recognition.

The desire is to have a mobile application that you can use to hold up your phone, have it recognise the person its pointing at, and then have it give you information about that person.  If a social setting, maybe their Facebook profile. If a business setting, maybe a LinkedIn profile.  If they are giving a seminar, maybe a link to their slides on SlideShare.  Imaging sitting in somewhere like a busy station and being about to browse some basic information about the people nearby in the same was as one can currently do inside a virtual world.  Thats the kind of thing people are thinking about at the moment.

Well, this company has an application, Recgonizr, that uses face recognition technology from Polar Rose, called FaceLib, that would appear to be a step in that direction.  We may still be a long way away from recognising random strangers in a busy station, but this demo of theirs is still very impressive.  More details from the readwriteweb.


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Domestic Robocop – Augmented (Hyper) Reality

February 14, 2010 at 4:02 pm (computers, interesting, internet, science) (, , )

This is a very interesting futuristic film, from student Keiichi Matsuda, produced for his Masters degree in architecture in order to show how todays electronic media could have an impact on future architecture, personal space and living.   Read more about it here.

It portrays a future where augmented reality is ubiquitous, and the information overlays are, well essentially all advertising.  Want to sell the surfaces of your kitchen to coca cola?  Well, maybe in this future it would be possible – unless someone manages to create the 3d, AR vesion of adblock …

Interesting extrapolation of the current tech.  Well worth a watch.


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Augmented Reality?

May 9, 2009 at 3:56 pm (interesting, odds) (, , , )

Stumbled across this French company, ‘Easyweb‘ the other day. They do large scale, 3D projections onto buildings. However, what makes this different to your average large projector, is that they must somehow model the building itself, so you get effects like columns that light up, panels in the building that open, water bouncing off ledges in the building, and so on.

It is just quite spectacular to watch, even on video. In real-life, it must be breathtaking!

Its not yet the sort of augemented reality you see in Minority Report, but when you see what effects are possible with todays technology, it does leave you speculating about tomorrow.


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