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Blog: ARspiration

Tiananmen SquARed: Memorializing History with AR

Chris Cameron March 9, 2011

Unless you live under a rock, you’ve undoubtedly heard of the protests and uprisings that are sweeping through North Africa like wildfire. Tunisia, Egypt and Libya have all seen massive movements of civilians protesting their government, thanks in no small part to the presence and organizational power of social media.



When a dictator’s first strike against protestors is to shut off the Internet, you know that the age of the digital revolution has arrived. The social web is not just helping to fight these battles, but also to remember them.



John Craig Freeman, a digital artist and new media professor at Emerson College, has created several layers promoting social awareness and memorializing pivotal moments in history, including the 1989 Tiananmen Square “Tank Man” incident.



The morning after the Chinese government forcibly removed protestors from Tiananmen Square in Beijing, an unknown man blocked a column of Chinese tanks simply by standing in front of them. Images of the tank vs. man standoff became a well-known symbol of the struggle between the Chinese people and their government at that time.



Freeman has allowed this moment in history to live on through augmented reality. With his Tiananmen SquARed layer, visitors to Beijing can see a 3D representation of the incident appear right before their eyes.



“Although it has been more than twenty years since Tiananman Protest took place in 1989, the authority persistently uses all means erasing the facts that Chinese people pursued democracy in this democratic and anti-corruption movement,” says Freeman in the layer’s description. “History should not be forgotten.”



Freeman’s other layers include “Décharge De Rebut Toxique,” a toxic waste art installation; and “Azadi SquARed,” a digital memorial to Neda Agha-Soltan, an Iranian citizen gunned down during the 2009 Tehran protests.

Permalink: www.layar.com/news/blog/244

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Stroll Down San Francisco’s Market Street Like It’s 1899

Chris Cameron February 24, 2011

If you have watched the beautiful, brand new Layar video which we introduced yesterday then you undoubtedly spotted a very interesting layer found only in San Francisco. No? Missed it? Well then be sure to re-watch the video and scrub to around the 48 second mark.



See it now? The layer is called “Historic Market St.” and it was produced by bigBigBang. Using public domain archival footage from 1906 (okay, not exactly 1899, but I was only seven years off), this layer allows you to take a leisurely stroll down Market Street in San Francisco and view video clips showing what the street looked like over 100 years ago.





The video was shot from a camera placed on a street car, providing an interesting point-of-view as the car rolls east down Market Street. The street is filled with people milling about, children running, chaotic horse-drawn buggy traffic jams and these radical new inventions terrorizing the streets - automobiles!



As you walk down Market Street, different segments of the video begin playing, unveiling the early days of the centuries-old street right before your eyes.

The video is part of the archives of Rick Prelinger, a filmmaker and archivist whose massive collection was acquired by the U.S. Library of Congress in 2002. Many of the films of the Prelinger Archives were placed into the public domain by way of the Internet Archive, including the video featured in the Market Street layer.



The Prelinger Archives contain over 60,000 advertising, educational, industrial and amateur films - over 2,000 of which can be accessed on the Internet Archive. Wouldn’t it be great if some enterprising individual decided to gather these films, geotag them and place them in a database connected to a layer? History would come alive on more streets in more cities, not just one main drag in San Francisco. We at Layar think this would be a terrific project.



Looking into the past is one of the truly fascinating and thrilling uses of Augmented Reality as we mentioned not long ago with the use of historic photographs in Layar. Historic Market St. allows you to immerse yourself in the San Francisco of 1906 - just watch out for those darned horse-drawn buggies and crazy drivers!



To view the entire 1906 Market Street film (all 14 minutes of it), be sure to visit the Internet Archive where the video is available to watch or download.

Permalink: www.layar.com/news/blog/237

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Watson, Augmented Reality and the Future

Chris Cameron February 21, 2011

One of my favorite news programs is On the Media, a weekly review of media which is broadcasted on National Public Radio (NPR) in the States. Over this past weekend, hosts Brooke Gladstone and Bob Garfield debated the current status of technology and the Internet in our lives and whether we are following the “yellow brick road” to technological utopia or hurdling clumsily toward a Terminator/Matrix-esque dystopia.



The discussion inevitably arrived on the question of Watson - IBM’s fancy new super computer with 15 terabytes of human knowledge and an itchy trigger finger that easily defeats futile carbon-based lifeforms at a game of our own creation: Jeopardy!



Does Watson’s victory signal the end is nigh for human intelligence as we know it and the coming of SkyNet? Or will Watson be the first step on the road toward a utopian blending of humans and computers?



Eventually, Brooke and Bob’s discussion turned to the creation of “The Bionic Man” - the idea that in the future, technology and humans will become blended as one. As Brooke points out, some of this technology is available today in the form of Augmented Reality, and that the idea of “Google eyes” or “Terminator eyes” is not that far off.



University of Washington professor Babak Parviz explains that even today, we have the technology, albeit “very rudimentary,” to display basic text onto contact lenses. But years down the line, as this technology develops, will humans be better off for having the world’s information quite literally at a glance?



Garfield argues that technology of this sort would allow us to filter out topics and ideas with which we disagree, placing “high tech blinders” on our view of the world. Certainly any advancement in technology such as this could potentially be used in less than the friendliest of ways, but that is to be expected at a certain degree.



We here at Layar side with Brooke, who feels that bionic contact lenses and Augmented Reality glasses “makes us only more of what were going to be anyway,” and we’re proud to be one of the companies helping to lead the way toward this vision of the future.



But what do you think? Is all of this data a good thing? And what could intelligent super-computers like Watson mean for augmented reality? If you think you have an answer, please share it in the comments or on Quora!



And click here to listen to the On the Media segment about the future of technology and augmented reality!

Permalink: www.layar.com/news/blog/234

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Layar’s 3D Augmented Office at Mobile World Congress, and an Introduction to Virtual Commerce

Adriane Goetz February 17, 2011










Layar 3D augmented office.
Outside view of the Layar Augmented Office.

As we mentioned last week, Layar is attending the 2011 GSMA Mobile World Congress conference/exhibition in Barcelona from 14-17 February, and we weren’t about to show up empty-handed.



Each afternoon at MWC Fountain, Layer is holding an Augmented Reality meetup where we show off our new Augmented Office layer, an interactive 3D model that you can literally walk into and access information about the company, layer content, job openings and more.



This layer was created especially for MWC, so it is only visible from Barcelona, but there is also a public version that can be viewed from anywhere in the world.



The 3D office combines elements of virtual reality with AR, enabling a 360 degree view of the space. You can look up at the multilevel ceiling, down at the tile and wooden floors, and around through the many windows where you can still see the “real” world.



Turn or walk around in the office and you see posters on the walls of some of our Layar Partner Network members, where you can touch the pop-up screen to visit their website, email them or follow them on Twitter. You also find portraits of our co-founders and our reps at MWC that you can contact or connect with on Twitter right from the layer.













Layar 3D augmented office.
Inside view of the Layar Augmented Office.

Continuing the office tour, you see posters on the windows for five of our coolest international layers that you can launch directly from inside the Augmented Office layer (A layer within a layer? Now we’re approaching Inception theory—be careful!).



Finally, near the doorway, you see a monitor on the wall that says “Layar News & Jobs” where you can see the current job/internship opportunities and read the latest news on our blog.



The concept of an “augmented office” allows any company to become an international company. You can place an office in the heart of Tokyo, Dubai or at Time Square in New York City.



But just as easily as you can place an office, you can place a store, selling merchandise through Paypal in AR! Case and point: Hostage Wear Shop. Hostage Wear is Layar’s first AR store, selling hats, t-shirts and other urban skate/streetwear products directly from the layer—there’s even a half-pipe in the store! (Although we don’t recommend trying to skateboard in AR… yet).










Layar 3D augmented office.
Outside view of the Hostage Wear shop.

Funnily enough, the Hostage Wear Shop layer actually started out as a joke. Herve Pellarin, creator of both Layar’s Augmented Office and Hostage Wear Shop (and the concept of virtual commerce in general), originally made the layer for his best friend to, in Pellarin’s words, “shut his mouth” about the frustration and expense of constantly having to make the tradeshow circuit to gain brand recognition and sell merchandise.



As anyone working in AR knows, monetization is a major issue at the moment, so virtual commerce is an exciting and much welcomed new element to the platform.



Pellarin is the man behind French development company HPSC, a member of the Layar Partner Network. He has made virtual commerce his primary focus, embarking on several new [mostly confidential] projects, and continues to push the boundaries in AR. Pellarin may still wear the coding hat, but assures us “I’m not a programmer. I’m a dreamer; an AR-chitect.”



You can contact Herve Pellarin at nocomp@gmail.com or follow @nocomp on Twitter.

Permalink: www.layar.com/news/blog/232

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Layar 5.0 Beta Animation Features Spotted in the Wild!

Chris Cameron February 16, 2011

Last week, we opened up a beta release of Layar 5.0 for Android featuring new sharing and animation capabilities (as well as a few other handy improvements). We were very excited to get this version of the Layar client in the hands of developers to see what wonderful things they could come up with using these new features, and already we’re seeing some great stuff.



Developer and former Layar intern Anthony Maës just recently put together a nice looking layer that shows off the new animation functionality. If you’re running the beta on your Android device, search for “Ferris Wheel” and check out Anthony’s work. Or just watch this YouTube video:





The layer features a 3D model of a spinning ferris wheel with balloons floating around it as carnival music plays in the background. It’s a terrific example of some of the possibilities that Layar 5.0 will introduce for developers.



Anthony created the ferris wheel with two separate 3D models; the wheel and the supports. Being careful about how he designed the models allowed him to use Layar 5.0’s rotation attributes to simulate a spinning ferris wheel. To hear more from Anthony and see the source code, check out his post on the Layar Developer Support Forum.



As another example of animation in Layar 5.0, the ARcade layer has updated its 3D icons to include animation as well. Now the game’s tokens spin in the air and those ever familiar PacMan ghosts have shifty eyes.



If you’re running the beta client, have a look at these layers and let us know when you find other great examples of 5.0 features in the wild!

Permalink: www.layar.com/news/blog/231

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