Embedded papercraft objects are better than embedded digital objects

Responsibility has yet to be claimed for the beautiful papercraft sculptures that have mysteriously popped up in Scottish libraries and arts centers, each accompanied by notecards featuring the Twitter handles of relevant authorities or personalities.

Tangible artifacts like these have so much presence. It’s hard to imagine augmented reality objects ever having this kind of impact.

This project is a great example of how “embedded” media objects and an active engagement with technology and network culture doesn’t always need to depend on glyphs, bar codes, scanners, cameras, or smartphones — as cool as all those things are.

Just because we can do something 100 percent digitally doesn’t mean that we should. All media forms are tools in the transmedia artist’s toolbox, and every tool has its place. How much less effective would these sculptures be if they had been objects that you needed to download Layar or some other AR app in order to view? How much less presence would they have? How much less mysterious and thought-provoking would they be?

Yes, it’s true, AR people: embedded papercraft objects are better than embedded digital objects.

This is what differentiates the true media artist from the technofetishist. The former adopts whatever medium or combination of media that suits the needs of their project and maximizes impact. The latter always adopts the highest-tech solution, regardless of other options.

Super Mario Sidewalk Speedrun

via Peter Brinson:

Whoever plays such a speedrun knows the levels by heart it’s safe to say. A clear challenge in a game like this is that the frame doesn’t show you what’s a bit to the right until you’re close to it (danger). What’s nice about this piece is that it actualizes the expert player’s memorized map of these levels – laid out on a sidewalk. That effect would be lost if the player weren’t an ace at the game, I think. (USC IMD/Peter Brinson)

Notes on the project by creator Andreas Heikaus:

This video was part of my Bachelor thesis at the University of Applied science and art Hannover. The Super Mario Bros. game, released on the Nintendo Entertainment System, is not longer bound to the television size and get interactive with a new environment. The emphasis of my thesis is on the matchmoving work. It is the process of matching CG elements into live-action footage. (Vimeo)


I met Eric Gradman at a meeting of the recently-formed Transmedia LA group; his enthusiasm and sense of humor are as infectious in person as they are in his work. Gradman’s “uncomfortably augmented reality” project, CLOUD MIRROR, is currently on show at the Sundance festival.

The CLOUD MIRROR is an interactive augmented reality art installation… Live video captured by a camera and is re-projected on the wall behind the camera, functioning like a “magic mirror.” But the CLOUD MIRROR software alters the images on the way to the screen. It runs an algorithm that tracks faces from frame to frame and also examines each frame for 2D barcodes printed on attendee badges. By pairing each face with a badge, and each badge id with a database row, the CLOUD MIRROR can identify by name whoever is standing in front of the installation.

The CLOUD MIRROR then augments each frame, adding a thought bubble to each face in the image. The contents of that thought bubble are selected from a set of “tags” associated with that person. Tags come from various sources, including Facebook, Twitter, and SMS data.

When registering for the event, attendees were asked to optionally provide their Twitter name, Facebook profile ID, and to answer the question “Where is your favorite place in LA?” In the weeks leading up to the event, the CLOUD MIRROR software sent a friend request to any attendee that provided that information. The poor trusting souls who accepted this request had their personal profile gently data-mined. Specifically, the information captured was “Facebook updates,” “Twitter updates,” and “Facebook relationship status.”

CLOUD MIRROR also capitalized on peoples’ innate desire to embarrass their friends by allowing anyone to anonymously “graffiti” in a thought bubble by sending an SMS message to a special number containing the target’s unique badge ID. (monkeys and robots)

Update: Eric’s documentation from Sundance and his reflections on some of the privacy implications of the project.

Tuttuki Bako: 8-Bit AR?

This pokey AR toy might not be as spectacular as something like LevelHead, but give it props for thinking, er, inside the box:

Here at ThinkGeek we’ve seen Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion but never have we encountered anything quite like the Tuttuki Bako Virtual Finger Game. When we caught sight of this wacky electronic game on the Japanese blogs, we figured it must be a joke… but no it’s 100% real and fantastically crazy. Simply stick your finger in the hole and a virtual representation appears on the screen. Then you can use your virtual finger to play all kinds of cool mini games… from swinging a panda to having a karate fight with a tiny little man. It’s so odd yet so wonderful. Domo Arigato Japan! (ThinkGeek)

Via Architectradure

Image Mapping and Tracking for AR Apps

I’m interested in the ways that augmented reality can be used to extend storytelling and interaction into the real world. The literary and gameplay potentials presented by this nascent technology seem limitless. That said, we have a fair distance to go before our world starts looking like the one depicted in Denno Coil. One of the biggest stumbling blocks I’ve encountered is the issue of precise positioning. Without knowing the user’s exact location and orientation, an AR system can’t properly overlay/position objects. Most of the AR apps we’ve seen thus far depend on glyphs to accomplish this task; others use carefully pre-positioned wifi routers or Bluetooth nodes to triangulate the user’s location. The problem with these solutions is that — while they make for decent demos — they don’t really scale. If we’re going to tell stories using AR, I suspect that we’ll be looking for solutions that break free of the need for pre-set glyphs, routers or other equipment.

This is where image recognition comes in. Projects like Microsoft’s Photosynth illustrate the capacity of image databases to define 3D space. More recently, AR researchers have started to use image recognition/mapping metaphors to create fluid “glyph-free” applications. The team at the University of Graz’s Christian Doppler Laboratory have just posted some exciting new videos of their work in this field.

These videos hint at the kind of seamlessness of interaction we can expect from AR in the near future.

More: Handheld Augmented Reality at the Christian Doppler Laboratory