Image Recognition That Triggers Augmented Reality: Matt Mills and Tamara Roukaerts Demonstrate Aurasma Technology for Mobile

In a June 2012 TedTalk, Matt Mills and Tamara Roukaerts demonstrated Aurasma, a "new augmented reality tool that can seamlessly animate the world as seen through a smartphone."

Aurasma is just one example of the coming tide of augmented reality apps. As I've noted previously on this blog, Google (with their growing library of images of the real world - like Street View) will undoubtedly be a leader in this field. For example, Google Glass is a wearable device (glasses, instead of holding up a phone or tablet) that might make using augmented reality more natural. (Even though Aurasma is cool, I find holding up a phone to an object to trigger a video unnatural. That's why I don't like an earlier iteration of augmented reality - QR codes. I just don't want to hold my phone over a symbol or an image for a few seconds - to then have a video play on my phone. But... if simply looking at something could trigger augmented reality options in a heads-up display, like that promised by Google Glass... then I'm much more interested...)

Despite the limitations of viewing the video through a phone or tablet, Aurasma is here right now. (As of August 2012, Google Glass is in the hands of only a few developers.) And Aurasma is clearly a powerful demonstration of how advances in the technology of recognizing images, symbols and objects in the real world is about to make the dream of augmented reality a commercially attractive service.

It now seems inevitable that, in the near future, millions of objects - from the cereal boxes to streetscapes - will unlock digital content.

For early adopters - like filmmakers eager to explore a new tool for linking to their online videos - the Aurasma application is available right now for free. And it includes functionality that should allow us to start experimenting.

With Aurasma, it's easy to begin watching videos that are already associated with objects. Unfortunately that experience is (so far) limited to just a few objects. But, as more Aurasma partners create digital content that is related to real world images, symbols and objects - the experience of simply using Aurasma to unlock digital content should become much richer.

And some creative types will want to begin experimenting - linking their own videos to real world objects they select using Aurasma. For example, New World filmmakers might want to think about what stories could be told using Aurasma. What real world object could you tag and then link to an original video that will be associated with that object?

If you're a filmmaker, you can make a short video, then pick an object and indicate the region of the tagged object (i.e., what part of the image) where your Aura (i.e., online video) should appear. Once that's done, any Aurasma-equipped device that sees that object will substitute your online video (Aura) for the selected region.

As is the TedTalk, where the video of the audience doing the wave was attached to Matt's badge, your video will pop up when a particular tagged object is recognized - replacing a designated part of the real world with augmented reality.

The insert-your-video-into-the-real-world potential might just inspire a new type of storytelling - where video elements are unlocked by users who find objects and places that trigger videos that seem to exist in what we know as the real world.

You can go the app store right now and download Aurasma for free onto your phone or tablet. Once you've done that, you can start using Aurasma - sampling the catalogue of images that Aurasma provides on their website. Or you can become actively engaged as a creator - and you can begin tagging you own objects and making your own Auras.

Filmmakers: If you're still unclear about why Aurasma merits your attention, here's a short video that explains how downloading Aurasma to your mobile device (for free) can set you on the path of creating augmented reality content:

Is online video - triggered by something that exists in the real world - the next great frontier for filmmakers?


As demonstrated in the TedTalk, Aurasma can be used to associate set-up instructions (e.g., an online video about how to connect a new router) with a newly purchased object. But set-up instructions are just the beginning of the stories that objects could tell. Maybe when you hold up your mobile device to an object, a video begins to play that invites you into an ongoing narrative (e.g., a mystery that you and others are asked to solve?).

NOTE: Perhaps a New World revenue model will evolve around the sale of objects that are associated with an augmented reality story - where the video is available for free, but certain elements can only be accessed by users who've paid for "premium" objects.

And remember, Aurasma includes the ability to track the triggering object in space. So, if the object is a street or building, a team of users could play the scene out - with a camera operator moving through the space with friends ("players?") who are immersed in a real streetscape and a fictional story. In other words, the camera operator would see a real streetscape that includes players and Auras - fictional elements - that all respond in synch to camera movements. And when you're tired of being a player - you can switch with the camera operator... and the fun continues...

Thanks to StoryCode and JC Martinez for the link.

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