InsideAR Tokyo, a Closer Look at the Latest Innovation in Augmented Reality

July 17, 2014 · Filed Under Editor's Corner 

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Second edition of InsideAR in Tokyo with cooperation of CYBERNET on July 8th was an informative gathering of industries and academia offering its participants with a glimpse of current and future applications on Augmented Reality technology. Packed with live demonstrations and creative workshops, the event delivered in what it promised, to show to its audience and world as a whole the stepping stone in Always ON, Always Augmented concept.

On the Industrial Application of AR Canon has presented its in-house developed Mixed Reality (MR) technology
and discussed the current obstacle to commercialize the technology and bring it to masses. The total introduction of Canon MR technology was only for 2 years back in 2010 by showcasing it’s “Glass” enabled AR .Intel Japan also presented its ATOM based RealSense™ technology leveraging Metaio’s patented a most important aspect of any augmented reality experience. Intel RealSense software development kit (SDK) will feature voice recognition capability in more than 9 languages, background subtraction (a capability allowing developers to add green-screen-like functionality to applications), close-range hand and finger tracking to help users to control their computing devices with hand and finger gestures as well as face analysis capable identifying users and tracking their facial features across the camera’s field of view. Combining the Metaio’s 3D tracking and recognition engine and Intel RealSense SDK the solution would offer developers with an advance augmented reality features using depth information data from the integrated Intel RealSense 3D cameras on computing devices allowing 65 thousands developers on Metaio’s AR platform to have access to advance human-computer interaction features offered by Intel. Central element and the most important aspect in AR solution is RGB-D sensor technology as it was pointed out by CEO of Metaio “Dr. Thomas Alt”, a technology with capability of capturing 3D footprint of any object. Some of the RGB-D applications include real-time face recognition and tracking. Other important elements include real-time estimation of RGB-luminance and real-time cast shadow on the face. One of the most promising technology presented by Metaio during this event was their
“Thermal Touch” , a technology that combines the marvel of RGB sensing and thermal touch sensing, where by touching the object the user is able to activate the AR and start AR on the selected object by using the combination of two sensors. The “Thermal Touch” was developed on the premises of taking the full advantage of wearable computing devices like Google Glass. The technology is still at the prototype stage combining an infrared and standard camera running on a tablet PC. The prototype simply registers the heat signature left by the user’s finger when touching any surface, afterward the AR function takes over allowing user to interact with digital content in a tactile way. The new technology would allow a wearable headset user to turn any surface into a touch-screen surface. Its application among many includes touching a static map in a shopping mall and getting an instant information, service technician could pull up information just by touching an object in real life. Education could also fall very well as yet another good example of the “Thermal Touch” application where the only item that you would need is your wearable computing eyewear.
AR may not be the next Mega-billion dollar industry as of yet, however given the numerous key points that I have seen throughout this event it has all the potential to reach at that plateau. One of the interesting surprises in my view was the company by the name of NGRAIN from Canada. NGRAIN’s CTO Mr. Andrew Woo under the theme of “Under the Hood for AR Deployment” presented the company’s 3D AR application to help users with the real-time decision making in the field. NGRAIN claim as being one of the most powerful 3D data visualization in the industry comes with a capability of 3D visual decision support and inspection. The company offers a more client centric approach to AR solution were most of the projects are based on clients request mainly in Defense, Aviation and Energy. Other presenter included EPSON with their Hands-Free AR, WESTUNITIS showcasing company’s AR glass (HMD) which the company refer to it by the name of “inforod” (i.e. information rod), VUZIX’s AR solution in manufacturing paradigm as well as X-ICS discussing AR character that connect Printing and Digital Industry.

I would imagine one of the most important elements to fuel the success of AR in a near future would be its source code openness (Open Source) in order to make it more accessible to developers community as a whole after all major consumer technology revolution requires a practical application and so far AR has many in its bag and many more will follow the pursuit. But the practicality of an application and its usefulness is what drives the mass-market appeal and provides a real framework for more profitable and sustainable business.
Metaio is a perfect example of a disruptive company in a constant challenge not so much with its competitor but with itself. I think this makes Metaio a unique company and successful for many years to come. On the other hand sufficient monetization of AR would require a closer cooperation between academia and industry for a successful mass market appeal of AR.

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