If you haven’t already heard the news, we went and did something no one has ever done before- Metaio has successfully designed and released a chipset architecture for accelerating augmented reality experiences on semiconductor platforms (like the chips in smartphones).
To coincide with the 2013 Mobile World Congress, we released the third edition of the InsideAR Augmented Reality Magazine featuring the all-new AREngine. If you missed picking one up at MWC, you can download the full version at the previous link, but I thought I’d post our cover story right here. So without further ado, here is the story on the “shot-heard-round-the-world” of the entire Augmented Reality Industry:
Nearly a decade ago, to the day, Thomas Alt and Peter Meier founded Metaio with the intent of advancing Augmented Reality (AR) as the primary interface for experiencing the digital and online worlds. This was a time when the most popular mobile device’s (the Nokia 1100) features were limited to SMS and a calculator. The dawn of the era of the smartphone really did change everything for the Augmented Reality industry, as suddenly the average user could experience through mobile cameras the same visual elements formerly restricted to factory-floor AR installations running on offline high-powered PCs.
Back then it was clear that computer vision and Augmented Reality experiences would greatly benefit from optimizing the software for individual handsets and chipset platforms. It was then that Metaio embarked on developing relationships with OEMs, handset manufacturers and chipset platforms in order to one day realize a fully optimized device, ready for Augmented Reality from the moment the consumer removes it from the shelf.
Despite hardware limitations, Metaio was able to make leaps and bounds with applied research and lowlevel optimizations. Their award-winning R&D team was responsible for the first commercial deployment of 3-D tracking and recognition on a mobile device. Metaio’s engineers were also the first to align a given smartphone camera with gravity, educating the sensor on how to better perceive its surroundings like the human eye. In fact, Metaio has made incredible software developments in 2012 alone.
In 2009, it was no less than a technological feat to get a top-of-the-line HD camera connected to an offline desktop PC to recognize a single pre-designed image and render a single 3-D model in real-time. With the latest low-level optimizations, Metaio has achieved recognizing 100 unique images and overlaying 100 unique 3-D models, all on a mobile device. If Metaio can accomplish these things without having any prior access to the processors and sensors inside these devices, imagine what mobile users could do with a fully AR-ready smartphone.
Whether it’s Google’s Project: Glass concept or popular movies like Minority Report or Terminator, nearly all of the popular references to Augmented Reality depict an “always on” interface. The camera is constantly scanning, detecting, recognizing and overlaying information and content onto the real world. In order to achieve this vision (something Metaio refers to as the “Augmented City”) of ubiquitous interaction, it is imperative that the groups developing the hardware are working with those developing the software.
For this reason, Metaio began developing a piece of hardware IP now known as the “AREngine”, an architecture designed specifically to accelerate Augmented Reality performance in mobile hardware, and one of Metaio’s longstanding platform partners, ST-Ericsson, will be the first to adopt and deploy it on silicon. The AREngine will propel Augmented Reality into the future and will do for the industry what the addition of the GPU did for the gaming industry.
Before the populace sports head mounted displays that resemble eyeglasses; before society adopts wearable computing; before contact lenses come in 16, 32 and 64 gigabyte models; before we exist in an Augmented World – there must be the first step. The future of Augmented Reality starts now with the first ever introduction and implementation of the AREngine.
Welcome to always on, always augmented – powered by Metaio.