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.


Into the Wild: Metaio goes Re:publica

April 14, 2014

Nothing is as it once seemed.

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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! 

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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!

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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.


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.

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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!

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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!

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Come on baby, light my fire: Light switches in a new dimension

April 7, 2014

The release of the BUSCH-JAEGER light switch application magically projects virtual light switches onto the walls of your home. 

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Do you want to experience the light switch of your choice on your wall even before it is installed? Now, that’s possible with the new BUSCH-JAEGER light switch app. The new 3D-LiveView transforms a marker tacked to the wall into a deceptively realistic light switch. You can then look at the three-dimensional switch from different angles – amazingly believable. In addition to the 3-D-visualization of the complete BUSCH-JAEGER light switch line, the app also uses location based AR to determine and display sales partners in the area.  2

The marketing team of Q:marketing  has developed this Augmented Reality app with the help of the Metaio SDK.

“With augmented reality applications we offer our clients a new and innovative approach to a more intense and sustainable dialogue with their customers. Our main intention is to deliver digital added value. Metaio and its AR SDK are providing us with the technical framework for bringing our ideas to live.”, says Sascha Wenning, Q:marketing, Head of Department Screendesign & Mobile Development. 

The app is intended to strengthen the brand of BUSCH-JAEGER with an innovative approach to product presentation. The app is available for iOS and Android free of charge. The marker can be downloaded via link within the app or on the BUSCH-JAEGER website.

The application enjoys increasing popularity due to the added value it provides. It will receive further updates and new functions in the future. Up next is a tablet version for iOS.  BUSCH-JAEGER will certainly expand the AR features even further.

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Meet Metaio at the Laval Virtual Conference, April 9th-11th

April 4, 2014

Laval

Metaio will attend the upcoming Laval Virtual conference in April. Don’t miss the best industrial AR projects presented by Thomas Jouhanneau both on stage and in the Expo Area together with our partners from CLARTE.

We spoke to Thomas and asked him about Metaio’s attendance at Laval:

Meet Thomas Jouhanneau, Product Manager Engineering Solutions at Metaio

Meet Thomas Jouhanneau, Product Manager Engineering Solutions at Metaio

What will you present at the Conference?

Metaio will be joining the expo area at the stand of our Partner CLARTE. We will show two demos: a Service & Maintenance Demo on a Mitsubishi climate machine and a Demo on AR for Documentation.

I will also provide a presentation about AR Solutions for Enterprise Users. During the presentation I will show how AR and especially how Metaio solutions can be used as a tool in an Enterprise to improve industrial processes.  Additionally, I will join other experts and customers in a Round Table on “How to use Augmented Reality to Improve Technical Documentation and Manuals”. In that Round Table, I will participate together with other experts such as Yvon Patte, Innovation Manager at GRTgaz, and Zile Liu, Co-founder & CEO of Laster Technologies. More information can be found on the conference’s website.

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Mitsubishi Maintenance: Advanced step by step guidance through complex maintenance tasks provides improved support for technicians

Why will you be focusing on Enterprise Solutions along the Product Life Cycle?

Today, many people have heard about Augmented Reality but are not necessarily aware of the real utility of this technology. It is important for us that people come out of our presentation knowing that Augmented Reality is not only used for marketing campaigns and video games but also can be used as a tool to simplify complex tasks or to improve communication within an Enterprise.
Because Augmented Reality is an interface to superimpose digital information on the world around us, this technology can be used as a tool along the Product Lifecycle: from conception to entrance into the market until after sales.

Companies are now facing various problems such as reducing operating errors, increasing flexibility operators or accelerating decisions.
For each of these problems, augmented reality can be used as a tool. I will illustrate my presentation with examples we have developed for our customers. (e.g MARTA, Audi eKurzinfo, Mitsubishi Electric)

For which applications in an Enterprise do you see AR as an added value?

As an engineer, I see using Augmented Reality to improve Service & Maintenance tasks in the after sales domain as adding the most value for the industry. Why?

Metaio developed together with Volkswagen the Project MARTA - a service and maintenance tool for the XL1

Metaio developed together with Volkswagen the Project MARTA – a service and maintenance tool for the XL1

The Technical Reason:

The possibility of tracking a car under all light conditions – it works everywhere

Benefits for the Enterprise:

  • Bringing data to the right context on a light device – e.g. a 300 gram tablet.
  • Information (and updates) are always available for the operator
  • Reduced training time and accelerated maintenance tasks
  • Reduce error rate during complex tasks
  • Improved flexibility for the operator

A symbolic reason is that Metaio was originally founded for Service & Maintenance use cases. Ten years later, it is possible to use AR everywhere to help the operator and this is really amazing for me.

Thank you, Thomas for your insights! Meet you at Laval! 

For our French speakers, find also an interview with Thomas at RA Pro’ by following this link.


Virtual Technologies are on the move & Mark Zuckerberg dreams of Augmented Reality

March 28, 2014

It’s a decisive time for tech industries and we were overwhelmed and thrilled by the announcement of the Metaio AREngine, the developer version of the  Google Glass, Apple buying PrimeSense and Intel announcing RealSense. Intel’s proclamation in Las Vegas to integrate our 3-D tracking technology into the RealSense platform was a huge step for us.  We’ve noticed an tremendous growth in usage, development and interest in Augmented Reality and two major topics around AR dominated 2013: Enterprise and Wearble Computing. The purpose of all these technologies is after all to make our life easier and more natural. But it still takes more money and brains to come closer to this vision.

Oculus Rift at 2013 InsideAR

Oculus Rift at 2013 InsideAR

This week  two announcements rocked the market: HTC bringing out the new HTC One (M8) with a depth-of-field sensor and great possibilities to AR makers. And the huge giant Facebook  who surprised with the announcement two days ago that they will buy Oculus VR, the company developing the Oculus Rift HMD. 

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, says: “By working with developers and partners across the industry, together we can build many more. One day, we believe this kind of immersive, virtual and augmented reality will become a part of daily life for billions of people.” For sure!

We’ve asked Peter Meier, CTO and founder of Metaio and a visionary by heart, to talk in an interview about the latest news and to consider them in the context for Augmented Reality:


Movin’ Klee: A Paul Klee ARt Installation

March 26, 2014

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A group of students from the University of Applied Sciences in Augsburg are using Augmented Reality to expand a series of secret paintings created by Paul Klee while he served as the treasurer’s typist at the Royal Bavarian Flying School in the early- to mid- 1900s.

The students created their own application as part of the Master’s course “Interactive Media” in cooperation with the Paul Klee exhibition “Mythos Fliegen” (“The myth of flying”). They choose eleven different pieces of art from the Klee exhibition to enhance with color and animation, with the goal being that visitors should experience something entirely new while visiting the exhibition and still being able to appreciate the original artwork.

Image Courtesy: Movin'Lab

Image Courtesy: Movin’Lab

The Movin’ Klee application was developed for iOS and Android devices and related animated content is overlaid over images from the real paintings. Due to safety reasons in the exhibition, the AR installation could not be directly integrated into the museum walk through, but is rather set up just outside of the main gallery. The application was well publicized to visitors, and they could even  use the museum’s internet connection to download and install the application on site.

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Movin’ Klee consists of a native application as well as a Junaio plugin that interface with augmented reality forms. The native apps are written in the corresponding programming languages for Android and iOS. The augmented reality part, which is the located on the Junaio-server channels, is developed in the programming languages ​​PHP, HTML, AREL and jQuery. This channel represents a type of browser where the augmented reality objects (animations) are loaded and played.  Britta Diehm, Xiaomeng Jiang, Yue Ma and Kerstin Vierthaler developed the native application as part the project group Movin’Lab.

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Kerstin Vierthaler, one of the developers, wrote her master’s thesis on the integration of Augmented Reality into museums and came to an interesting conclusion:

“The study of the animated Movin’ Klee application shows that customers remembered the Augmented Reality related paintings better than non-animated pictures, since animations raise the viewers’ attention and perception. Besides the better memorization of paintings, the rather unknown technology itself was very interesting for the visitors. [...] Furthermore, the intuitive usability makes the application accessible for visitors who are not experienced with applications. [...] The evaluation reveals that it is important to inform the visitor about digital offerings within the exhibition. In addition to the technical challenge the museum’s internal integration and communication plays an important role.”

For more information about Movin’ Klee, please visit their website.

 


Metaio releases newest version of Junaio AR Browser with new design, real-time POI visualization and browser interoperability

March 24, 2014

It’s a release, yeah! 

Last week we released the long expected, newest version of Junaio for Android and iOS devices with an updated user interface that features an all-new visualization of nearby points-of-interest (POIs). With Junaio it is now possible to access GPS and location-based information from almost anywhere in the world.

“The more natural we make AR, the more mobile users will see value and return to the experience,” CTO Metaio, Peter Meier said. “It’s clear that the next step for mobile AR is location-based information in devices like Google Glass, and we’re looking to the near future in our R&D.”

Junaio has been optimized and available for wearable devices like Glass since Metaio’s InsideAR conference in October of 2013, but as of today it’s equipped with an even friendlier interface and a more contemporary style familiar to today’s app users. The brand new visualization scheme ensures that the user sees only the most relevant information to his or her surroundings, like geo-tagged Instagram photos or tweets; the best places to catch a Taxi; the nearest entertainment locations like movie theatres or concerts; or even the real-time positioning of public buses and trains.

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Junaio combines GPS, image recognition, visual search and a robust cloud-based architecture to recognize and attach digital information to nearly any object or environment in real-time. Now even non-developers can create their own Augmented Reality “channels” and even applications with the latest Metaio Creator tool, a drag-and-drop and easy-to-use content management system for AR.

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For developers who want to create mobile AR experiences utilizing location data, Junaio is now compatible with other browsers like Layar and Wikitude. Now over 20,000 Junaio developers will have access to the entire mobile AR audience and will be able to push their content directly to other applications.

Download Junaio today at http://junaio.com/download

Learn more about the Metaio Creator at http://creator.metaio.com

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Metaio at 2014 hy! Summit in Berlin: Be crazy and disruptive

March 21, 2014

hysummit_picThe last two days we attended the hy! Summit in Berlin – the most fanciest and coolest Startup event in whole Europe. The founders of hy! Berlin, Aydogan Ali Schosswald and Hans Raffauf, brought together top industry executives, innovative startups and investors to further advance the digital transformation of Europe’s economy. The discussions focused on current trend topics, big data and research, e-health, security, mobility and wearable technologies.

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“Pushing forward the dialogue between the new and old economy the hy! summit is a learning and innovation platform. At the summit decision makers of today will meet the ones of tomorrow”, says Aydogan Ali Schosswald, CEO of hy!. “Startups are exciting catalysts of our time when it comes to user-centred innovation. So our goal is not only to help them with general support but also giving them access to capital, science, politics and industrial infrastructure.”

dobrindtFederal Minister Alexander Dobrindt delivered the opening speech of the hy! summit and welcomed all participants to the “digital summit” and warned the audience: “Europe is standing on the border of being an innovation society to becoming a staganted one. Now is the time to do something.” Peter Thiel, angel investor at Facebook and Co-Founder of PayPal, as well as Charles Adler, founder of Kickstarter discussed topics around “new digital frontiers” and “innovation in the digital era”.

The most freaky show came from Ijad Madisch, founder of ResearchGate and a former doctor, who talked about his vision to create one single platform where scientists from all over the world could share their knowledge and interact with each other. And the vision came true: Ijad built ResearchGate and could even convince Bill Gates to become an investor for the Startup. Not a bad start, right?

Ijad Madisch

In addition to the leading startups and investors, established companies such as Bosch, Google, Siemens and of course Metaio were also present. The hy! summit managed perfectly to bring together decision makers of the new and old economy to identify and realize potential growth and innovation developments in the digital society.

We took also part in a fireside session “Future Applications for 3-D Spatial Awareness and Object Recognition” and had a discussion about the future of Augmented Reality, the valueness of developed applications and the future of mobile devices. These kind of debates with the AR peer group and beyond are very helpful and inspiring and we should encourage people from different industries to continue to discuss.

For Metaio the hy! Summit was a great platform to talk to new entreprenieurs with great visions and to get a lot of media awareness. Anett Glaesel-Maslov, PR Manager of Metaio, took part in the hy! Live WebShow and gave an interview about what Metaio is doing, how the AR industry changed in the last ten years and about keydriver projects. Here your can watch the complete interview:

Thank you to hy! Berlin for being part of the 2014 hy! Summit!


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