Posts Tagged ‘iPhone’
I’ve been a fan of the potential of augmented reality for some time (see Introducing Augmented Reality – Blending Real and Digital Worlds for some examples why…) but there have so far always been a couple of major stumbling blocks in the way of actually playing with this stuff. One has been the need to download and install the AR application itself; the other has been to get a hard copy, or print out, of the registration images that are used as the base for the digital overlay.
So when I saw this demo of a browser based Flash Augmented Reality application (via TechCrunch), I realised that the application installation barrier could soon be about to crumble… (though there is still potentially a compute power issue – the image registration and tracking is computationally expensive, which means the Flash app is not yet as reliable as a compiled, downloaded application).
The issue of having to print out the registration image still remains, however.
[Cue sideways glance to camera, and TV presenter mode;-)] Or does it?
Because it struck me that I have a portable, programmable image service to hand – my iPod touch. So maybe I could just display the registration image on that, and show it to my laptop…
It also strikes me that maybe training the AR package on an image shown in an actual iPhone would be another way to go – making use of the iPhone/iPod Touch itself to help frame the image? (My iPod touch has a well defined black border around the edge of the screen after all…)
So here then we have another way of using two media in sympathy with each other to enrich an act of communication (cf. Printing Out Online Course Materials With Embedded Movie Links and Dual View Media Channels).
Finally, browsing the comments in the TechCrunch post, I found this link demoing an ARToolkit app for the iPhone:
So it looks like a magic lens app for the iPhone might not be so far away?
And if you or a friend has a second large screen smartphone (or ebook reader) to hand, you can use it as “magic paper” to render any required registration image or set of images, as shown above!;-).
Are you keeping up with all this? I’m not…
PS see also AR virtual pet game for iPhone.
A couple of weeks ago, I popped the Stanza ebook reader application on my iPod Touch (it’s been getting some good reviews, too: Phone Steals Lead Over Kindle ). I didn’t add any ebooks to it, but it did come with a free sample book, so when I was waiting for a boat on my way home last week, I had a little play and came away convinced that I would actually be able to read a long text from it.
So of course, of course, the next step was to have a go at converting OpenLearn courses to an ebook format and see how well they turned out…
There are a few ebook converters out there, such as the Bookglutton API that will “accept HTML documents and generates EPUB files. Post a valid HTML file or zipped HTML archive to this url to get an EPUB version as the response” for example, so it is possible to upload a download(!) of an OpenLearn unit ‘print version’ (a single HTML page version of an OpenLearn unit) or upload the zipped HTML version of a unit (although in that case you have to meddle with the page names so they are used in the correct order when generating the ebook).
The Stanza desktop app, free as a beta download at the moment, but set to be (affordable) payware later this year can also handle epub generation (in fact, it will output an ebook in all manner of formats).
The easiest way I’ve found to generate ebooks though is, of course, feed powered:-) Sign up for an account with Feedbooks, click on the news icon (err…?!) and then add a feed (err…?!)
(Okay, so the interface is a little hard to navigate at times… No big obvious way to “Add feed here”, for example, that uses a version of the feed icon as huge visual cue, but maybe that’ll come…)
Once the feed is added, it synchs and you have your ebook. So for example, here are a couple of Feedbooks powered by OpenLearn unit RSS feeds:
- RSS Feedbook ebookfor the OpenLearn unit “Parliament and the law” – http://feedbooks.com/feed/6906.epub
- RSS Feedbook ebook for the OpenLearn unit “Introducing consciousness” – http://feedbooks.com/feed/6905.epub
Getting the ebook in Stanza on the iPod Touch/iPhone is also a little clunky at the the moment, although once it’s there it works really well. Whilst there is a route directly to Feedbooks from the app (as well as feed powered ebooks, Feedbooks also acts as a repository for a reasonable selection of free ebooks taht can be pulled into the iPhione Stanza app quite easily), the only way I could find to view my RSS powered feedbooks was to enter the URL; and on the iPod, the feedbook URLs were hard to find: logging in to my account on the Feedbooks site and clicking the ebook link just gave an error as the iPod tried to open a document format it couldn’t handle – and Safari wouldn’t show me the URL in the address bar (it redirected somewhere).
Anyway, user interface issues aside, the route to ebookdom for the OpenLearn materials is essentially a straightforward one – grab a unit content RSS feed, paste it into Feedbooks to generate an ePub book, and then view it in Stanza. The Feedbooks folks are working on extending their API too, so hopefully better integration within Stanza should be coming along shortly.
Once the feedbook has been synched to the Stanza iPhod app, it stays there – no further internet connection required. One neat feature of the app is that each book in your collection is bookmarked at the place you left off reading it, so you could have several OpenLearn units on the go at the same time, accessing them all offline, and being able to click back to exactly the point where you left it.
At the moment the ebooks that Feedbooks generates don’t contain images, so it might not be appropriate to try to read every OpenLearn unit as a Feedbooks ebook. There are also issues where units refer out to additional resources – external readings in the form of linked PDFs, or audio and video assets, but for simple text dominated units, the process works really well.
(I did wonder if Feedbooks replaced images from the OpenLearn units with their alt text, or transclusion of linked to longdesc descriptions, but apparently not. No matter though, as it seems that many OpenLearn images aren’t annotated with description text…)
If you have an iPhone or iPod Touch, and do nothing else this week, get Stanza installed and have a play with Feedbooks…