Joining the AR Club

Lately I’m gearing up to work on an augmented reality project with Jerry at 7 Billion Friends. We’re scheming ways to blur boundaries between physical and digital spaces using vast urban canvases, the web, and the gadgets in your pocket. Think “gARdens.”

Not familiar with augmented / mixed reality? It’s a combination of computer vision and 3D rendering. Check out GE’s demo, fireworksa magic trick, a hole in the head and some AR humor. If you have a webcam and print the right marker, you can play with these toys in a browser yourself. Here are notes from my foray into the recently popular Flash / ActionScript tools FLARToolKit & Papervision3D

Thanks to Saqoosha’s great start-up guide, I had sample code running in no time. You’ll need a webcam (thanks Craigslist!) and markers (tags, codes, fiducials, you know the black & white square images) to track.

shARpie test Lacking a printer I grabbed a Sharpie and notebook, which worked famously (see right – my very own blue cube) and gives me ideas for totally sweet pop-up books. You’ll find lots of resources for making your own 80mm FLARToolKit markers (image + .pat definition file). I recommend this how-to at Squidder, this online generator, and a PDF-from-numerical-ID generator. I ended up pixeling a few in Photoshop.

Initially I had trouble tracking markers against dark backgrounds (and um don’t use a reflective table) , but improved it by adding a white border and taping them to stiffer cards. Check out this adaptive filter to track tags in less-than-perfect lighting. Detecting multiple targets is straightforward but takes some effort to reliably associate each code with a 3D object.

So that’s a geeky getting-started writeup. I expect later posts to focus on the artful side rather than tools.