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Augmented Reality, Painting, Twitter

Bruce Sterling was in town last week, giving a keynote talk at Are2010, that is, Augmented Reality Event, 2010.

He gave an inspiring talk, although I didn’t initially understand all of it. Turns out, AR is hoping to be a next big thing, a cozier and more commerce-driven cousin of the old VR, or virtual reality.

The basic idea in AR is to overlay images over video of the real world around you. Some recidivist types still dream of ultracool bulbous glasses. But it’s more likely you’ll be seeing your AR on the screen of your cellphone—when you hold it up and scan the world around you. The “augmentations” might be labels, ratings, ads, reality-based videogame bric-a-brac, or cultural info. The server uses your phone’s GPS and some image recognition to “know” what you’re pointing the phone at.

Videogame god Will Wright was there too, playing with a camera-equipped helicopter he’d been tweaking as part of his new venture, Stupid Fun Club. Another type of augmented reality would be to “see” through the eyes of a helicopter that you’re guiding around with simple moves of your hands and eyes. This comes close to realizing the “dragonfly cameras” that I’ve written about in my novels Saucer Wisdom and Postsingular.

I was happy to talk SF with Bruce and to be around the technogeeks. Bruce kept checking his Twitter feed every half hour or so, and he talked me into getting an account. I’m not sure how long I’ll keep it up, but I’m finding it interesting for now. If you want to follow my tweets—or find out whose tweets I’m presently following, you can click the button below.

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I finished a new painting this week, “Billy’s Book.” As I mentioned in my previous post, the painting is a kind of illustration for Terry Bisson’s cool story collection, Billy’s Book. The twelve panels of my work illustrate twelve of the stories.

Billy’s Book, 40” by 30”, June, 2010. Click here to see larger image.

Terry wanted Billy to be “in” each picture, and at first he wasn’t, but then I had the idea of making some of the icons be stand-ins for Billy. Anything with blonde hair or a green t-shirt “is” Billy, in other words. We’ve got Billy and the Bulldozer, Billy and Spacemen, Billy and the Withc, Billy and the Unicorn, and so on. Actually there’s 14 stories, so I may yet do another painting with two squares only: “Billy’s Book (The Apocrypha)”.

3 Responses to “Augmented Reality, Painting, Twitter”

  1. failrate Says:

    Apropos of CA:

  2. Snafu Says:

    There is an adorable Japanese animation series for young audiences, Dennō Coil, which revolves around the idea of AR glasses being a daily life thing for everybody, and the adventures of some children trying to solve the legend of people getting trapped “in the other side”. The depiction of how ARspace works, warts and all, is quite reasonable (and the story is sort of Hayao Miyazaki gone cyberpunk 🙂ō_Coil

    Some footage:

  3. Dewi Morgan Says:

    Recidivists, tchah. Nobody dreams of bulbous glasses.

    It’s unlikely that AR will for any serious length of time be about wandering round with your arm outstretched, one hand trapped by using it to hold a device that you have to look at instead of looking at and being aware of your surroundings. That’s almost a gauche antithesis of AR, which should be as effortless and casual as glancing.

    But certainly, mobile phones are an absolutely necessary intermediary step, to prove the technology. But that’s not the end, that’s the first gasping breath of public acceptance of AR.

    Next-gen, there’ll be enough bandwidth in the bluetooth successor to transmit encrypted video, microprojectors will have been included in enough phones to be affordable, and enough power will be available in a small form factor to clip a projector, eye tracker and head-tracker in a barely-visible clip-on to your regular specs, shades, whatever. No bulbousness. Two projectors gives 3D.

    Hurdles are battery life, component cost, and market demand management, and mobile phones should fix all three.

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