Sunday, March 22, 2009

More on Augmented Reality

We talked back at the end of January about Augmented Reality. I'd like to show you a few more Augmented Reality demos that hint at some more of the promise of this technology, and then I'd like to show you a little augmented reality project we've been playing with here at my studio.

Here's a video of an "Augmented Reality Wormhole" that was created by Seb Lee-Delisle of Plug-In Media.

Papervision3D augmented reality wormhole from Plug-in Media on Vimeo.
A direct link to the above video is at

As regular readers of this blog know, I'm fascinated by Wormholes: I think they can be used to demonstrate some of the basic ideas about this way of visualizing the ten spatial dimensions. While the above video isn't really a wormhole, it does tie in nicely with the discussions we've had here about Douglas Hofstadter's I Am a Strange Loop, and recursive processes like video feedback that give us insight into the mysteries of consciousness.

Here's a little virtual race car being controlled by an xbox controller, this video was created by squidder.

Augmented Reality Driving Demo (flash + flartoolkit + xbox controller) from squidder on Vimeo.
A direct link to the above video is at

Here's Toyota's new entry into the world of Augmented Reality:

A direct link to the above video is at

And here's a new project which adds augmented reality to a book about UFOs:

A direct link to this video is at

Most of what we're looking at here are just whimsical experiments, fun to play with but what's the point? A couple of days ago I attended (and, I'm proud to say, presented the awards at) an Interactive Media Conference in Saskatoon where "Serious Games" was a recurring theme - there are lots of initiatives under way to incorporate these kinds of technologies into serious applications. For instance, what if a doctor could use Augmented Reality to show a patient exactly where in their body their cancer tumor was, so that the patient could look at themselves in the computer monitor, turn one way or another and "see" inside themselves to understand exactly the location and size of the tumor, how it was oriented, and so on? This would be much more intuitive than looking at flat x-ray pictures, and therefore the discussion of treatment options could be simplified.

Advertising and entertainment will also be able to use this technology more and more to help engage their audience. Here's an example of how Lego are now using in-store kiosks to show what that box of Lego pieces will look like when you put everything together - not just as a picture on the top of the box now, but as an animated 3D model that appears when you show each box to the camera!

Lego's 3d Boxes from MyOnline VideoStorage on Vimeo.
A direct link to the above video is at

Which brings us to the little animated reality project we've been playing with here at my studio. Here in Canada, a month ago Doritos announced a "name the new chip flavor and create the advertising campaign for it" contest. After giving it some consideration, I thought this would be a good excuse for us to demonstrate how Augmented Reality could be used to promote a product. The chip flavor name we came up with for these chips is "Queso Diablo", and we're calling our campaign "What's In Your Bag?". Here's the text we used for our submission:

What's in your bag? Doritos Queso Diablo! Five cheeses, tomato, and a delightfully spicy burn, all perfectly blended together. The innovative marketing campaign for these chips uses something called "Augmented Reality": anyone with a webcam can hold the chip bag up to their computer and see the new flavor's devil-mouse mascot, having a party right in their Doritos bag! For a "work in progress" demonstration of what this will be like, go to and see for yourself.
Let me be clear, I'm not telling you about this because I want you to go to the Doritos site and vote for our entry - the public voting has ended and we now wait to see whether the judging panel will pick our entry as one of the five finalists. There were a lot of interesting entries, some of them much more edgy or satirical than ours, so whether our concept is funny enough to match the usual "Doritos attitude" remains to be seen - but I think what we have here is a great concept that we could apply to many other products. What if every Kellogg's cereal had a tag on the front that let you see the mascot for a particular cereal dancing around inside the box you were holding? It could be great fun for kids to actually see themselves with Tony the Tiger or Toucan Sam (and so on). This could also be a great way to entice kids to eat foods that are currently considered to be "healthy" rather than "fun".

Here's the commercial we entered:

A direct link to the above video is at
The above commercial invites you to go to and click on What's In Your Bag: obviously that link would really only exist if won the contest. As it says in the text description above, in the meantime if you would like to see our "work in progress" demo of what this would look like, please go to and follow the directions.

Frivolous use of a promising new technology? Sure. But this all can be easily related to a number of the blogs we've posted lately about Shamans and Modern Shamans, Comedians and Musicians: if Imagining the Tenth Dimension is about how our reality is defined by shapes and patterns that exist beyond spacetime, "just around the corner" in the fifth dimension and above, then augmented reality as a technology could prove valuable for helping us to visualize those things as well.

Enjoy the journey!


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