Blog: ARspiration

Ben Cerveny Talks Ambient Information Displays at ARE 2011

Chris Cameron May 27, 2011

Can’t get enough of our video coverage from Augmented Reality Event 2011? Then you’re in luck because we’ve got another great video to share with you today.Ben Cerveny gave a rather intriguing talk at ARE about ambient information displays that you’re sure to enjoy. Catch it embedded below.

Ben is a veteran UI/UX designer, prototyper and strategist, working with the likes of Flickr and Revver. Ben is currently the founder of the Amsterdam-based research foundation VURB as well as president and founder of Bloom.

In his presentation, Ben discusses how environments can become social, and how ad hoc networks can be created around those environments. It’s certainly inspiring, so check it out below and let us know what you think!


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Regarding “Strong AR” and “Weak AR”

Gene Becker May 25, 2011

Layar’s AR Strategist Gene Becker penned this blog after attending Augmented Reality Event 2011 in Santa Clara, California, last week.

At the end of his otherwise lovely keynote at ARE2011, Microsoft’s Blaise Aguera y Arcas proposes a distinction between “strong AR” and “weak AR”. Aguera’s obviously a very talented technologist, but in my opinion he’s done the AR industry a disservice by framing his argument in a narrow, divisive way:

“I’ll leave you with just one or two more thoughts. One is that, consider, there’s been a lot of so called augmented reality on mobile devices over the…past couple of years, but most of it really sucks. And most of it is what I would call weak augmented reality, meaning it’s based on the compass and the GPS and some vague sense of how stuff out there in the world might relate to your device, based on those rather crude sensors. Strong AR is when you, when some little gremlin is actually looking through the viewfinder at what you’re seeing, and it’s saying ah yeah that’s, this is that, that’s that and that’s the other and everything is stable and visual, that’s strong AR. Of course the technical requirements are so much greater than just using the compass and the GPS, but the potential is so much greater as well.”

Aguera’s choice of words invokes the old cognitive / computer science argument about “strong AI” and “weak AI” which was first posed by John Searle in the early heyday of 1980’s artificial intelligence research [Searle 1980: Minds, Brains and Programs (pdf)]. However, Searle’s formulation was a philosophical statement intended to tease out the distinction between an artificially intelligent system simulating a mind, or actually having a mind. Searle’s interest had nothing to do with how impressive the algorithms were, or how much computational power was required to produce AI. Instead, he was focused on the question of whether a computational system could ever achieve consciousness and true understanding, and Searle believed the concept of strong AI was fundamentally misguided.

In contrast, Aguera’s framing is fueled by technical machismo. He uses strong and weak in the common schoolyard sense, and calls out “so-called augmented reality” that is “vague”, “crude”, and “sucks” in comparison to AR that is based on (gremlins, presumably shorthand for) sophisticated machine vision algorithms backed with terabytes of image data and banks of servers in the cloud. “Strong AR is on the way”, he says, with the unspoken promise that it will save the day from the weak AR we’ve had to endure until now.

OK, I get it. Smart technology people are competitive, they have egos, and they like to toss out some red meat now and then to keep the corporate execs salivating and the funding rolling in. Been there, done that, understand completely. And honestly, I love to see good technical work happen, as it obviously is happening in Blaise’s group (check out minute 17:20 in the video to hear the entire ARE crowd gasp at his demo).

But here’s where I think this kind of thinking goes off the rails. The most impressive technical solution does not equate to the best user experience; locative precision does not equal emotional resonance; smoothly blended desktop flythroughs are not the same as a compelling human experience. I don’t care if your system has centimeter-level camera pose estimation or a 20 meter uncertainty zone; if you’re doing AR from a technology-centered agenda instead of a human-centered motivation, you’re doing it wrong.

Bruce Sterling said it well at ARE2010: “You are the world’s first pure play experience designers.” We are creating experiences for people in the real world, in their real lives, in a time when reality itself is sprouting a new, digital dimension, and we really should try to get it right. That’s a huge opportunity and a humbling responsibility, and personally I’d love to see the creative energies of every person in our industry focused on enabling great human experiences, rather than posturing about who has stronger algorithms and more significant digits. And if you really want to have an argument, let’s make it about “human AR” vs. “machine AR”. I think Searle might like that.


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ARE 2011: Blaise Aguera y Arcas

Chris Cameron May 23, 2011

Augmented Reality Event 2011 was again provided with an inspiring keynote from Microsoft’s Blaise Aguera y Arcas, creator of Photosynth and architect of Bing Mobile and Bing Maps.

Last year, Blaise provided ARE attendees with a keynote similar to his well-known TED talk on Photosynth. Blaise was equally impressive this year in Santa Clara, providing a keynote on big data and augmented reality - an intersection we appreciate here at Layar.

In his presentation Blaise talks about how Photosynth is evolving and he ends with his latest project: Read Write World. A very impressive project about crunching all available big data to “index, unify, and connect of the world’s geo-linked media. Consisting of a cloud-based geo-indexing, matching and processing services.” All code is intended to be open source, serving an example of what big companies can aspire to.

Once again, we’ve got video for those who couldn’t make it to ARE this year, so check out Blaise’s great talk below!


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Moving Beyond Presumptions with Maarten

Chris Cameron May 19, 2011

Augmented Reality Event 2011 is going strong in Santa Clara, California but don’t fret if you couldn’t make it. We have more video for you from the event and more still to come.

Today we’ve got Layar co-founder Maarten Lens-FitzGerald talking about moving beyond the presumption that space is exclusive. So what does that mean? Well, at Layar, we are interested in democratizing space - opening it up so people can use public space to digitally express themselves.

To get a better idea of what this all means, check out Maarten’s talk below.


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Democratizing Space for Public Good

Chris Cameron May 16, 2011

If you’ve been keeping up with us here at Layar, you probably know that one of the core visions we have been discussing is space.

Space is an opportunity, as we see it. Layar co-founder Maarten Lens-FitzGerald recently explained how Layar hopes to “democratize” space in his interview with Layar strategist and evangelist Gene Becker also recently shared his thoughts about how augmented reality is creating new perspectives on public space.

“When you look at who the true AR enthusiasts are, who is doing the cutting edge creative work in AR today, itÌs artists, activists and digital humanities geeks. Their projects explore and challenge the ideas of ownership and exclusivity of physical space, and the flowing irreversibility of time. They are starting to see AR as the emergence of a new construction of reality, where the physical and digital are no longer distinct but instead are irreversibly blended.” - Gene Becker

This vision takes inspiration from the use of public space by activists, street artists and other groups that take advantage of public space to share their ideas and encourage discussion.

One such artist, Candy Chang, was recently interviewed by Juxtapoz magazine, which covers art and culture. The article has circulated around the Layar office today as a bit of Friday inspiration, so we thought we’d share some highlights here on the blog.

Chang discusses what drives her and inspires her to create some of her well known public art pieces, such as the “Before I Die” wall and the “I Wish This Was” sticker project.

“Before I Die” is a chalkboard-painted wall she constructed on the side of an abandoned building that encourages anyone to write down what they want to do before they died. The sticker project encouraged people to share what they wished various vacant storefronts would become.

“There’s little dialogue between the people who live and work in a neighborhood and the local businesses that open. What if there was? How can residents influence the types of stores and services that enter their neighborhood?” - Candy Chang

Many of the ideas and principals of the democratization of space which we espouse at Layar are shared by Chang. “I’m also more and more insterested in redefining the ways we share information in public space to improve our personal well-being,” she says. “It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day and forget what really matters to you.”

“What if we could find out what all our neighbors pay in rent? What if we could say what businesses we want in these vacant storefronts? What if we could learn about people’s experiences and stories with particular buildings? What if we could use public space to share and learn what matters most to the people around us?” - Candy Chang

Be sure to check out Candy’s interview in Juxtapoz as it serves as a strong indicator of our inspiration and vision at Layar today!


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