Augmented reality anywhere from MIT

Thankyou to AnnieOk for pointing me towards the video and articles here on the MIT Fluid interfaces that got such a good reception at TED 2009. This is brilliant work. You have to see this and go to wired to read the rest of the article.

Projection, mixed with gesture and finger tracking, whilst looking a little cumbersome this is showing some very clever things actually working.
What I like about projection (though I do find the personal ways to get an AR experience relevant too) is the potential to share with others. Just as it has become common, as I have mentioned before, to see people gathered around and iphone on the table.
Its been quite a weeks for seeing things often talked about actually working.

Anarkik eightbar

Ann Marie Shillito from Anarkik 3D visited the eightbar crowd in Hursley (thanks to epred for inviting a bunch of us hangers-on along!).

Anarkik are involved with haptic input devices and have developed some really nice software which enables users to interact with virtual worlds and 3D modelling tools using a consumer-priced haptic controller which can be connected to a PC via USB.

The demo blew us away. First we had a look at how the controller could be used to drive an avatar in a virtual world (in this case, OpenSim). It’s a considerably more natural way to navigate than the keyboard and mouse setup that is provided with most 3D worlds and should lead to a lot more accessibility into these environments. The part that really impressed us was the capability of driving a CAD-like tool called Cre8 – a free download from Anarkik, for people who have the controller – to easily create three-dimensional objects by physical manipulation… both inside and out. I remember hacking around with an old 3D package called Euclid on my RISC OS machine back in the early 90s and it was a nightmare – this was sheer joy. Watch the video to see various people playing around with the haptic controller 🙂

Just to explain what is going on in the video, as it may not be entirely clear! The demos use a Novint Falcon gaming controller. To quote Anarkik, it is “like a small grounded ‘robot’ and provides the ‘force feedback’ that gives the uncanny sense of touching a virtual object. This device replaces the mouse and also provides more natural and coherent movement in 3 dimensions.” At the start, several of us have a go with the controller to drive an avatar around an OpenSim island running on the local machine, using Anarkik’s software. Around the middle of the video, we switch to using the Cre8 tool to do some simple modelling. In particular, we change the surface hardness of a sphere (where it becomes more or less soft to the touch); and then go inside the sphere and extrude the shape by pulling the controller around. Finally, there’s a brief look at some fabricated items modelled using the same software.

Anarkik also have a community called Anarkik Angels where they are looking for supporters to help crowdsource and develop the project.

[the one minor disappointment for me personally was the current lack of Mac OS X support – Windows-only at the moment – and the websites aren’t terribly Mac-friendly either. Guess it’s time to buy a Windows box just for this stuff, it’s awesome!]

All of this haptic craziness hit a lot of our interest areas – 3d printing, new ways of interacting with technology, the application of these kinds of controls to education, manufacturing, science, craft, modelling… we had some very exciting and interesting discussions and I think several of us are looking forward to playing with this technology a lot more in the future. There are a bunch of additional videos on the Anarkik website.

Mirror Mirror on the wall

Over at Redmonk, James Governor has written a very interesting piece on what has happened to the Microsoft ESP platform. Mirror worlds, accurate representations of real things, ideally instrumented by a raft of sensors from the real world are a very specific, and obvious, use of virtual worlds. After all pilots already spend a large amount of time training in such environments and we entrust out lives to them. (It would be interesting to know how much virtual training the Hero of the Hudson has had, re water landings).
James said of ESP “the single coolest initiative I have seen from Microsoft in the 13 years I have been watching the firm”, but now it appears there is a drop in focus on it.
There are of course lots of other mirror worlds and hybrid mirrors out there, but as yet there is not a good commercial high fidelity toolkit that can be used to build specific mirrors.
Google Earth is clearly the most rich in terms of global level instrumentation, but it is at a much more finite and realtime level that we will see the benefits.
I am not sure what we would do with a live as-is model of the world accurate and instrumented in every way possible, but as a concept and seeing the fascination people have for maps, photos, and satellite images of their part of the planet it seems a worthwhile goal to make a true mirror world.
Also an accurate model of an environment is a base requirement to help enhance the real world with augmented reality systems. i.e. like the ones we already have for our GPS tracking. Without the accurate map(digital model of the world), the GPS position is of less use to the average user.
As James also says though ,there is some speculation in the future of the ESP platform. So I guess we will have to wait and see.

Coca Cola Avatars in the real world

Whilst we may have missed the advertizing-fest that is the US Superbowl, we do atleast get to see some of the great ideas courtesy of youtube. For me the most significant was this one. (Thanks Roo for finding it first 🙂 )

It speaks for itself, but does have some subtle little niceties. What is does show is a mainstream appreciation that we all have various avatars and visual persona’s that we engage with anywhere and everywhere, on mobile devices, in coffee shops.
Mainstream appreciation of the adoption of this way of interacting?

Duelling eightbar twitterers – I “win”: sort of!

 The last few days fellow eightbar  Andy Piper had pointed out that he was approaching 1,000 followers on twitter and that I was a tad behind him. We ended up engaging in a “first to 1,000 though it does not really matter or mean anything, conversation is about quality… etc” competion.

Something happened somewhere, I am not sure what got out there, but I tapped into a network, or commented to some mover and shaker and boom, I hit over 1,000 very quickly. Andy has now topped that too so there was not a lot in it.

I pointed out this is a bit like gamer points on xbox live. They can mean something in context, and mini competitions and bonding experiences can happen, out of the main context of the plot of the game. So yes, a huge twitter following can be a bad thing, but equally it did not do any harm to recognize one anothers proximity to the “magic” 1,000. In fact its like watching your odometer on the car roll over to 30,000 miles or Andy SC’s unix time frame tick over a significant boundary.

Anyway you can find us both on Twitter and bask in what ever celebrity glory this is, Andy and me

Just thinking out loud – Metaverse snapshot

I moved offices today and having a bright new whiteboard I could not leave it clean for long.
Its not really a mindmap, just some association of thoughts and bits of linkages. I am sure it will alter, but right now this is what was in my head in a mad flurry. The underlying red part is really the substrate of the whole thing. Just my personal thoughts linked to some of the things I have seen and been involved with one way and another.

Thoughts on the metaverse
Note: edited to show smaller version of the board as it was cropping the right hand important side for those that did not click through to flickr. 3d printing FTW and high value professional social networks one there too !

Socially Warcraft is the new golf, but golf is still coached professionally

I mentioned in my 2009 predictions that there were some exciting things I had seen going on with both social media/web 2.0 and virtual worlds and specific applications to deal with something as a whole.
One such business currently in development, that got my interest, is around the sports coaching profession. Sports coaches all around the world in every sport from amateur to elite have mandated processes from their sport governing bodies and country governments to maintain their professional standards. Much of this can now benefit from the online tools and social interaction that we have seen grow the past few years.
Peter Meli is the man behind the formation of The Global Coaches Social Network, The Coaches Centre GCSN/TCC. A business currently building prototypes and expanding on extensive research into what coaches need, what their governing bodies require and how to improve and expand on the potential of a global approach to sports coaching.
Education, training and certification combined with professional directed social networks clearly make a great deal of sense. In addition the physical and spatial nature of sport is ideal to be represented with virtual world technology, as we have shown with our experiments with Wimbledon. That can range from the sort of simulations we see in todays high end games, to the more basic needs of a business meeting of a committee, to a convention for coaches, to a coaching masterclass from an elite coach.
The project itself is for the International Council for Coach Education(ICCE) and is in partnership with Pearson Learning and ECS.
coaches centre
Image from GCSN/TCC & ECS

This project is not about one technology, or one platform but about the set of people who can benefit from it. In this case the sports coaches and hence the athletes they motivate, train and grow. It is also about global partnerships, tailoring to local country needs and hence has some interesting challenges.
It is very ambitious, but the groundwork has been done over the past few years and its ready to take the next steps.
Peter told me “The objectives are straight forward: Build and organize an online community of coaches, transition offline transactions online, create new revenue streams to ICCE member organizations”
The last element is where I am sure many of you can see the potential here. The provision of services to a known community for sports coaches in a virtual world or social media platform has elements of both professional subscription, advertising, sponsorship, content distribution, physical and virtual product sales and also elements of entertainment (fantasy leagues, coaching games etc).
If you want to know more Peter is on Linkedin and keen to talk to prospective partners and share his very real passion for where his business is heading.
Given the online games and sports and the new golf what is World Of Warcraft whilst not yet having quite the same recognition professionally already by their very nature use all the online tools to both compete, train and communicate it makes sense that the old golf and all the other sports should get in on the act.

coaches centre
Image from GCSN/TCC & ECS

IBM’s “Sametime 3D” project – flowing workflow

A new video recently arrived on youtube featuring the voices of many of the people who work in the Digital Convergence/3d internet emerging business unit. It shows real integration between various elements of a regular workflow, including the realtime data feeds into a representation of a data centre.

It also shows some of the work done on various thought gathering tools. Its well worth a look as this is the sort of integration that should start to make sense to more of the business community.
There is of course a lot of opensim in there as its very flexible for these sort of applications.
Well done to all the team doing this and showing it at Lotusphere

Understanding the use of social media by the next generation

BoingBoing has an article linking to danah boyd’s now public PHD thesis on Teen Sociality online.
What I have read so far has been very interesting, I was looking forward to seeing it as I got to meet danah at the Handheld learning 2008 event where she made some great points around the evolving of the generations coming through with social media as part of their discovery of who they are in the world.
Why is this relevant? Well for anyone who is a parent understanding the difference and the dynamics of social media in the context of teenage development should be understood. Also for those in business the emerging workforce will have experienced what danah has researched. To look upon all social media (and include virtual worlds) as irrelavent friend gathering frippery misses the point that the socialization of these young people is occurring in these environments. To extrapolate some of the conclusions for the enterpirse audience. They are not places to be demonized (as were the physical spaces when we were growing up) fill in you own parents worst nightmare, snooker halls, discos, amusement arcades, shopping malls, skate parks. The reason being that these virtual places, and the skills to understand them, negotiate and establish social norms will also be the skills of enterprise 2.0.
danah also makes the point that people are growing up with these environments, it is how they establish their pecking orders and social mobility, as opposed to many adults who are busy trying to translate their current order into the current social media.
Anyway, just as with the byron report I suggest you have a look at this serious piece of research, combine it with tribes and Tapscott’s grown up digital. Then start to work out what that is going to mean for us all.
danah has been snapped up by Microsoft Research (which had already happened back when I met her), so I wish her good luck in her career there.

Rivers Run Red’s Retail Planogram in Second Life

Thanks again to Malburns for spotting this and tweeting it. Rivers Run Red have released an example of an application layered onto immersive workspaces in Second Life. In this case it is around retail planning and visualization.

This is an example of the next layer of toolsets that we can expect to see across virtual worlds, as those virtual worlds become a platform not just a place.
Producing what if scenarios, or mirror world scenarios does need the ability to simply sketch and examine the possibilities whether its a retail store, a machine room or an intricate business model that cannot normally be visualized.
The exciting thing about this for us here at eightbar is that it makes it a step closer to be able to then instrument the model with real live data via publish subscribe methods such as MQTT. Merging the data from a smart planet into immersive visualizations that can be explored together, not stand alone clearly is a direction we have been pushing since even before the 2006 Wimbledon. Hursley is (for those who dont know) the home of messaging, pub/sub reliable MQ messaging.