Augmented Reality

The Aim

To experiment with the Augmented Reality Tool Kit developed by the Human Interface Technology Lab (NZ version at HitLab NZ ) and get up to speed with the magic book technology. It was also loads of fun.

What We Did

This was essentially a hard slog to get a VRML model to appear over the symbol using the AR Toolkit. The following is a basic description of the learning curve we went through, the results and reminders of the important files and how we got this working.

  1. Inspiration through a field trip to the HIT Lab for a play with the magic book.
  2. Setting up the camera and then downloading the AR Tool kit for windows that supported VRML models
  3. Testing that it worked using the 'simple.exe' example that came with the kit.
  4. Make a VRML model. In this case we used the Aphid to see how grunty the model could be before the processing became too much for it.
  5. Figure out how to get the VRML model associated with the pattern.
  6. Do the happy dance once it is working.

Trials and Tribulations

For the non-techies among us this was incredibly hard to set up. The actual installation process was remarkably painless though finding the correct ToolKit to download was a bit of a mission. In short I grabbed the Windows version that supported VRML.

The examples that come with the kit are a good start though there is currently no interface for adding your own or manipulating the models. I ended up hacking the 'simple' example that came with the download and changing it to use my model.

The Files

There are three files that allow customisation:

  1. vrml_data: I have no idea what type of file this is but it specifies the pattern to be used, the .dat file and allows for multiple models to be used.
  2. *.dat: This file specifies the VRML file (.wrl) to use and it's translation, rotation and scale properties in the AR environment.
  3. *.wrl: The VRML model file. Usually created in a 3D modelling package. The ARToolkit I was using required VRML97 to be used.

Ideas and Comments

In general we feel that Augemented Reality is lots of fun but currently the majority of the excitement is in it's potential. The following ideas/comments came out of using the AR Tool kit and looking at the goggles/camera set up.

  • In general the goggle/camera set up needs to be lighter, smaller and simply sexier to go mainstream. Once they get lighter and more mobile (ie. not tied to a workstation) we can go for broke.
  • Takes a lot of processing power.
  • If the camera/goggles were able to position themselves in an environment and be working with a predetermined layout objects could appear without the need for the symbols.
  • Laser Strike would be much more interesting with this.

Overall though we were pretty happy with our little Aphid floating around in virtual space.