Steps Towards Making Augmented Reality a Reality?

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…


(A copy of the registration image is at if you want to give it a go. The application code itself can be found at FLARToolkit.)

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!;-).

PS see also Wikitude (here), an Android app that will overlay a camera view with information about points of interest.

Are you keeping up with all this? I’m not…

PS see also AR virtual pet game for iPhone.