SCANTACTULAR: digitizing our reality

The potential for augmented realities has blossomed over the past few years. In part because of the ever increasing adoption of smart phones and tablets. The computing power (cell phones today have more computing power than all of NASA in 1969 when they sent two astronauts to the moon), sensory input (GPS, cameras, accelerometer, gyroscope, photocell, touchscreen, compass, microphone, etc.) and “high-speed” connectivity to networks and other devices (bluetooth, wifi, cellular network, etc) allows these devices to connect and enhance our increasingly digital worlds. The smart phone’s potential as an early augmented reality (AR) medium is has found its stride as commercial advertising has driven the majority of the development thus far. Mobile applications such as daqri (which has free and enterprise levels) allow the user to upload digital models and view those models in 3d space through the “window” of the smart phone using a QR code as the referenced or tracked feature that exists in the “real” world. Other software such as Qualcomm’s  AR developer kit which works with the Unity game engine allows for the tracking of unique no-QR code elements such as rock or wood textures. The current level of the “magic window” branch (magic window vs. magic mirror) of AR is limited to the current unidirectional view of the device’s camera, preventing the user from experiencing the augmentation from any view but that of the camera. The “window” is more of a tunnel than a frame for viewing a digital reality.

Other technologies have shown the potential for the digitization of our environments. Rather than the insertion of singular digital entities, these technologies digitize our physical world and permit post-augmentation of that digitized environment. The Kinect has shown promise in this area. Comprised of two infrared sensors, an RGB camera, and  multiple microphones; the Kinect has a vast community of hackers using this readily available and affordable technology (about $150) to digitize themselves and their environments. Below are some good examples of the Kinect’s scanning ability.

kinectfusion (via

CALIT2 kinect research description (via

kinect with ipad for “holographic” video playback (via

and my favorite so far “be your own souvenir” (via

Be Your Own Souvenir! from blablabLAB on Vimeo.


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