Technical insight into the 2014 DLD Museum Tour: An Augmented Reality exhibit for the Bavarian National Museum

April 17, 2014

This week we offered once again an Augmented Reality museum walk through together with the Bavarian National Museum in Munich and were overwhelmed by all the attention we got afterwards via different blogs (like in the Huffington Post Germany )and in the social networks. This attention shows that the topic of Augmented Reality is really interesting both for the museums themselves and also for the visitors. Therefore, we decided to give you a more technical insight into our museum project and asked our developers to talk about the development of our application. Here it is:

Alexei, Nicolai & Kevin - Developers of the Museums AR Experience

Alexei, Nicolai & Kevin – Developers of the Museums AR Experience

Hello, my name is Kevin and I am a member of the creative team here at Metaio.  I worked together with my colleagues Alexei and Nicolai to create the assets and code for the DLD Bavarian National Museum AR experience. 

Built in a very short time, the Bavarian National Museum application was a great opportunity to create a valuable cultural experience with AR technology. It aimed to create a balanced user experience between physical and digital content that could inform and entertain the average museum visitor. We  focused on five pre-selected exhibition pieces and  unveiled them as part of the DLD Conference in Munich.

The Metaio Toolbox: Easily creating 3-D tracking maps

The first step to develop the project was to visit the museum itself in order to come up with some ideas and generate our 3-D tracking maps with the Metaio Toolbox .  Many of the assets would be created off-site so establishing an accurate reference that we could use back in the office was important. This was easy to do with the Metaio Toolbox, and within 2-3 attempts we had a satisfactory 3-D tracking model that we could later use in the Metaio Creator . We could also load our point-clouds into Autodesk products for designing more complicated 3-D content by extracting them as an OBJ file from the Metaio Creator.

During our discussions with the museums curators there was concern that the new digital content would take attention away from the physical artifacts, so we set out to create a design that would keep a respectful balance between the cultural artifacts of the museum and the new digital information we were introducing into the environment. To achieve this we kept AR content to the sides of the physical objects, used discreet 3-D white lines as indicators and semi-transparent backgrounds for our buttons and texts.

The AR pieces in detail:

untitled-3756Tilman Riemenschneider: The Mary Magdalene

In the Mary Magdalene scenario we introduced to the user an audio explanation of the piece, some general background information and a photographic overlay that showed the sculpture’s past place of residence (a church altar that was color-corrected in order to better match the lighting scheme of the room).

 

untitled-3776Conrad Meit’s “Judith with the head of Holofernes.”

In the Judith scenario we connected pieces of explanatory text to the model with 3-D white lines. Supported by a particularly strong 3-D map, the experience provided a great sense of depth and space to the user without distracting from the physical object. In order to ensure that the lines were a pleasant shape and length we imported the reference point cloud into Maya before constructing the 3-D lines.

untitled-3788Jakob Sandtner: The Munich City Model

The Munich city model was a real challenge to us because the lighting conditions in the room were very difficult. Due to the sensitive state of some of the historical pieces, strong lights were not allowed in this particular room. This meant that getting a good 3-D map and lining up content to the physical model involved a lot of trial and error. But we managed, and in the end visitors could see an overlaying map of today’s Munich.

untitled-3803Christoph Jamnitzer: The Moor’s Head

The Moor’s head cup contained three nice reference images of the interior and base of the cup which were not viewable to the visitor. In order to display them and not take away from the physical model we created a thumbnail effect that shrank and grew the images when the user tapped on them. This was done by overlaying the images on to a 3-D object and adding a simple on-click animation in the Metaio Creator along with an additional piece of code to allow for a secondary on-click animation.

untitled-3794Hubert Gerhard: Flying Mercury

In the case of Flying Mercury we displayed large images of other artworks created by the artist. They are “floating” around the sculpture.

Balancing AR and non-AR content

AR tablet experiences have a short viewing time in comparison to other media due to the energy required for navigating the physical space. In a museum there are many different people who are enjoying the exhibition at different paces. To create a more fulfilling experience, we needed to support each AR scenario with a non-AR content section: something people could easily switch to while sitting down and relaxing. This non-AR section contained text, audio and video and was accessible through a button on the bottom of the AR viewing screen. It was built by creating an offline webpage that was then integrated into the AR experience.

A developer’s point of view

Nicolai’s thoughts:

This AR scenario was very generous from a developer’s point of view. Its value derives from the simplicity and unobtrusive way of visualizing the additional, well designed content. In this case it means to me that the design and arrangement of the content together with the stable tracking already contributes a lot to this experience. For this AR experience my colleagues finalized the concepts and designed the assets, as well as combined and positioned everything with the help of the Metaio Creator. The effort as a developer was therefore quite manageable.

untitled-3764My part in this was to integrate the designed webpages and connect them to the exhibits. Those webpages functioned as a user interface, enabling the user to see detailed information and multimedia items. The combination of those webpages into one user interface is fairly straightforward. The user interface basically is a single webpage on top of the camera feed. The Metaio AREL bridge allows you to connect to the underlying renderer with the included JavaScript code.

First of all, the information elements had to be connected to the exhibits. This is done by listening to the respective tracking event. When the event is fired, the according HTML elements are shown.  The difference from regular websites is mainly keeping everything within one HTML file. The CSS and JavaScript files can be included there as well. So instead of linking to another page, these other webpage elements were included into the one HTML overlay file. On request, certain elements are hidden or shown. When it comes to best practice, HTML editors and templates can be a great help when designing those HTML elements. Integrating those files for the overlay, however, can be slow due to the produced overhead in including styles and linking in the first place. Within the web overlay you have all the possibilities that HTML5 has to offer. Next to the AREL API this scenario uses standard HTML5 technology like video and audio tags to include even more media content.

In the end, the AREL Technology enables you to easily create slick and effective user interfaces for your AR scenarios.


Argyle Social shuts down, Metaio bids farewell to amazing service

April 16, 2014

So long, old friend. 

This afternoon we received some unfortunate news: the social media marketing tool, Argyle Social, will be shutting down their service on May 31st. Metaio has used Argyle for over three years and we can’t express how disheartened we are.

When we began using we had an audience of less than 10,000, as a quiet though long-established augmented reality software company. We evaluated more than 10 different tools and services to help us grow our audience, and out of all them Argyle was the one that stood out.

Their intuitive dashboard interface gave us a bird’s-eye-view of all the social media properties and information we wanted without being cluttered by layers of data and analytics. We were able to incorporate Argyle internationally with our teams in Munich, New York, and San Francisco that allowed us to work effectively, and in real-time. Since then we’ve more than tripled our audience organically- and we owe a lot of that credit to Argyle.

Argyle Social

As a team, Argyle was quick, adaptive, and a pleasure to work with. Social media is an ever-changing animal and the small team at Argyle was able to grow and change with it. They were always reliably in communication with us and extended their services beyond their software. Supportive through the end, Argyle’s team works even now to lessen the blow this situation has on us and their other customers.

The very nature of the tech industry that allows companies like Argyle to come to life and grow can also be their downfall. Surviving in the tech industry can be difficult and it is saddening that Argyle, despite being an incredible solution and tool, will no longer be with us.

Thanks again for the last three years, Argyle. It will be difficult to fill your shoes.

We wish you all the best with your future endeavors,

- Metaio


Into the Wild: Metaio goes Re:publica

April 14, 2014

Nothing is as it once seemed.

rp13_3

Another year has passed and it’s finally time for Germany’s biggest social media conference again: Re:publica is taking place from May 6 -8 in Berlin. Last year more than 5.000 attendees discussed, over the course of three days, internet policy, network neutrality and the future of social media campaigns.

Augmented Reality was also a hot topic, as you can read in our review from the 2013 Re:publica. This year we join Re:publica again and even have our own booth in the main hall which all people have to enter before spreading out to the keynote and session halls. On Wednesday, May 7, we will offer a short presentation on stage 3 between 12.30 – 1.30 pm: Anett Gläsel-Maslov, Manager PR & Social Media at Metaio, will present our company and some of our latest projects.

About the motto “Into the wild”:

rp14_banner_300x250_1“Re:publica 2014’s motto INTO THE WILD highlights various points of departure for solutions in the internet of the near future. When algorithms turn us transparent and controllable through predictability, perhaps we have to become more unpredictable; dissolving old structures, veering from the well-trodden path in favour of chaos and irrationality, heading INTO THE WILD. Yet this begs the questions: how will we navigate and find one another? How can one whisper into the global net and, in particular, with whom? Will those calling for a free and unrestricted internet not have to face being ever more vigilant and controlling of those who may partake and those who must stay out?

While the omni-surveilled net may have become draughty it will continue to protect its vital interests, learn to sidestep and manoeuvre and continue to develop. During the build-up to re:publica 2014, we will extend INTO THE WILD in search of unexpected technical solutions, surprising impulses stemming from business and politics and look forward to new, unbridled internet culture.” (Source: http://www.re-publica.de)

Looking forward to meeting you in Berlin! 

rp13_2

 

Watch the video for impressions from the 2013 edition of Re:publica:


Update: Audi eKurzinfo now availabe for Q3, RSQ3 and A3 g-tron

April 10, 2014

Audi lovers, get your mobile devices ready!

InsideAR_11

The latest update for the Audi eKurzinfo application is now available for the Audi Q3, RSQ3 und A3 g-tron and in even more languages such as Portuguese, Spanish, Italian and French.

The new app can recognize over 300 individual elements of the Audi A3 – from the insignia on the windshield wipers and entertainment system to actual engine components under the hood – in order to return relevant how-to information or even virtual overlays of maintenance instructions, animated in real-time and in 3-D. Metaio’s Cloud-based architecture pushes digital information directly to the device.

The design of the Audi eKurzinfo app brings the most intuitive user experience with it: using Metaio’s latest 2-D and 3-D Augmented Reality tracking technology, the user positions the camera of the mobile device directly over the individual vehicle elements, instantly detecting and returning information on the desired subject. For example, after scanning the engine compartment, the app will return information and an animated overlay showing how to locate the engine coolant and refill it to the appropriate level.


Land Rover – Augmented Cars in a New Way

April 9, 2014

If you haven’t heard already, Land Rover is working on an augmented reality car hood concept that makes your hood transparent. The concept is simple: when begins tipping up (on a rising hill for instance) the hood or “bonnet” becomes transparent allowing the driver to see the space normally obscured by the hood at such an angle. If you’ve ever driven in San Francisco  (or any place where you seem to drive uphill more often than not) this is pretty big news. Applied to vehicles going off-road it can help you can avoid hidden trenches; applied to vehicles in an urban environment it can help you can avoid dangerous accidents.

 

Concept Video

Courtesy of Land Rover UK

Thinking outside of the proposed concept, imagine having similar augmented reality tech on your car’s blind spots or installed on slow-moving trucks. There’s a vast amount of potential this augmented reality concept could bring to the automotive industry, but its implementation may be difficult considering the rugged nature of Land Rovers and the camera’s location. Hopefully the concept turns into a reality, but we’ll have to wait and see.

Check out Land Rover’s concept video below:


3 Reasons to Work for Metaio – Impressions from a “Newbie”

April 8, 2014

A guest post by Andreea Raducan

First you may wonder who Metaio is, even after having browsed through the complex website.  Metaio is a company that has been developing software and hardware to provide Augmented Reality business and non-business solutions for more than 11 years. But what is AR? In simple words: it is a technology displaying digital information on top of real life objects via a device’s camera. This is something I have learned recently, shortly before I joined the company. Now, after having discovered more, I wish to share some insights with you and why I believe you would love working with Metaio.

1st reason: The people

It was 31 days ago – my first day at Metaio. I remember it as a sunny day. Was the sun up on the sky? I can’t really tell. What I can tell for sure is that the sun was definitely up in the Metaio offices. This was the case for each of the 31 days I was there until now. And this is a first important reason why Metaio is a place where you would certainly love to work.

Cooking PictureIndeed, bright smiles will cheerfully welcome you on your first day. People will greet you and come spontaneously to introduce themselves until you’ll wonder if there’s anyone left unknown. You’ll hear the most sublime birthday singing, on three voices, orchestrated by the CEO. What more was there to discover in the weeks to come?

Let’s see… I have learned how the word “Team” can refer to a 100+ group of people and be synonym to “family”, how colleagues may gather to just enjoy a beer after-work in the company lounge, how we are free to come by on the weekends and play board games, how fast we can cook our lunch together, how quickly one should race for the birthday cake, or just how skilled our CEO is in bartending. Now you might wonder… CEO & bartending? How do I know about that already?

Very easy: It was the end of my first week when I attended the “Winter Team event”. One of the bi-seasonal events the company organizes to reunite the team and share achievements and future objectives, all in a convivial environment. In the heart of the Alps, two days of hard work & fun. First comes work, with a day full of exciting presentations and workshops. Then, the fun starts again with Looping Louie, Whirlpool, Werewolves, Music and open bar. Literally open. Meaning that the CEO would just go behind the bar and kindly make sure we all have something to drink. And that’s how I know about his bartending competencies. The second day everyone – more or less – recalls the adventures of the previous day, while exploring the heights of the Alps by skiing or hiking.

2014-03-07 21.26.08-2

Thomas Alt serving Peter Meier at the bar

Most important, however, is what I have seen lies behind all the fun: passion, talent, devotion, solidarity, ethics, kindness and sharing; hard-working people with brilliant minds striving to achieve a common goal: bringing Augmented Reality closer to people in a natural way.

2nd reason – The value the team creates

While some would perceive AR as something gimmicky, the work of Metaio can easily prove it wrong. Before I applied for the job, I did not know much about AR. I knew about Google Glass of course, but always from a user perspective, skeptical about its true usefulness. After more research, I have discovered how widely it is used in advertising and gaming, but its functionality doesn’t stop here: specific applications are also being researched or in use already for medicine (teaching or live surgeries), education (chemistry with interactions of elements from the periodic table), automotive, factory planning and plenty of other fields, meant to improve productivity, learning, or even save lives. AR can even help visually impaired people guide their steps more easily, or help hearing-impaired people interact with the world in a new way. How amazing is that? This technology is making a real difference and Metaio has been driving innovation for 11 years already – imagine being part of that!

2014-03-07 16.40.02

Keep calm and augment reality

3rd reason – The value you can bring

Being part of making the difference applies also on a company level. Another advantage of working at Metaio comes from its start-up atmosphere. Not only do people share enthusiasm and passion for their work, but they are also enjoying a high degree of autonomy, responsibility and challenge, making their contribution feel meaningful. What’s more, every two weeks the “Team” reunites in the lounge, where updates are presented and rounds of applause accompany each of the achievements. This is one way Metaio shows recognition for individual merits, making everyone feel valued.

I personally have experienced an amazing first month. And I can’t believe it has only been one month! It feels longer – not because the time was  passing by too slowly – but because I feel like I have known the people for so long already. Moreover, I feel like I have learned so much in such a short time. I feel like we could make a difference! Imagine feeling all that…

If you want to join the Metaio team, check the Metaio careers page!

team_pic


Weekest Links – Early April

April 7, 2014

April showers bring AR flowers

Courtesy of Google Maps

Only the most adventurous explorers experience augmented reality

Metaio | Junaio Recap

Come on baby, light my fire: Light switches in a new dimension [Augmented Blog]

Meet Metaio at the Laval Virtual Conference, April 9th – 11th [Augmented Blog]

Microsoft Allegedly Acquiring Augmented Reality IP [Augmented Blog]

Artscape – See the World Through the Eyes of Artists [Junaio Blog]

Augmented Reality News in the World

Augmented Reality will turns us all Superman [GamesBeat]

How eCommerce, Augmented & Virtual Reality will Redefine the Retail Experience [Business 2 Community]

Legal issues may define the future of wearable technology [Mobile Commerce News]

Tell me a story: augmented reality technology in museums [The Guardian]

Vuzix: Undervalued Augmented and Virtual Reality Play; New Products To Drive Growth In ’14 [Seeking Alpha]

Raytheon Uses Augmented Reality To Speed Missile Design [InformationWeek]

Sulon Cortex Blends Virtual Reality with Augmented Reality [Tom's Hardware]

Tim Sweeney: Virtual reality will be bigger than smartphones [Kit Guru]

PS4 dev: Virtual reality and augmented reality “the future of gaming” [Gamespot]

Augmented Reality – A Compelling Mobile Embedded Vision Opportunity [Electronic Engineering Journal]

Did Facebook Buy Virtual Reality too Soon? [New York Times]

Upcoming Events

AugmentaMe EDU 2014 [Ciberespiral blog]

Metaio at Laval Virtual Conference – Come visit us at stand D19! [Laval Virtual]

#MetaioWearsEpson Giveaway – Ends Wednesday at 11:59 pm PST [Register Here]

Webinar – Metaio and the Epson Moverio BT-200 [Register Here]

Pick of the Week

With April Fools’ it comes as no surprise that tech companies around the world would come up with obscure news and events for their products. From unfair game modes to personalized weather vents on planes, April Fools’ always gets interesting. But this year, Google grabbed everyone’s attention with their Google Maps Pokemon Challenge. 150 Pokemon were hidden through the Google Maps world and would-be Pokemon Masters around the world spent hours capturing Pokemon. But alas, with only 150 of  the 719 existing species available for capture, a true Pokemon Master will only exist in the Pokemon games. Maybe next year. . . .

I wanna be..the very best


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