The Box and Beyond

Today I will give a presentation on the future of mobile at “De Haagse School“.
I will present for a group of Human Technology students.

I tried to look beyond the obvious role of context. I ended up in a world where media and life are delivering ONE integrated experience.

As you see chapter 3 is still not finished.. Atleast that is how it feels for me.. What should be added?

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The Augmented Reality Hype Cycle

Update: This article now also in Dutch. And in Catalan.

This year Augmented Reality (AR) is out of the box. It has escaped from the universities and is spreading like wild fire. It’s being written about more and more, especially by marketing people, who go for hypes first. This last month I’ve personally heard about at least 4 advertising agencies working on it. On Twitter its mentioned at least 5 times an hour. What types of Augmented Reality are there and where do we stand?

To frame this and differentiate the levels of AR I made the Augmented Reality Hype Cycle. It is inspired by Robert Rice’s article “Is it too early for Augmented Reality?” and expands on the AR Levels which he describes in “Augmented Vision and the Decade of Ubiquity “. The Gartner Hype Cycle is a great method to plot new technologies and applications.

In the Hype Cycle I focus on technology that is already out there and which application is aimed at the individual. Not Industrial. Also I focus on mobile when ever possible.

There are 4 Levels of AR (the larger grey titles):

  • Level 0 - Physical World Hyper Linking
  • Level 1 - Marker Based AR
  • Level 2 - Markerless AR
  • Level 3 - Augmented Vision

LEVEL 0 - Physical World Hyper Linking

This is the oldest form and an addition to Rices’s 3 initial Levels of AR. It is a way to link the physical world to the virtual world. It starts with the 1D (UPC) bar code that’s on every product you have. It’s the identifier as registered in the database. The same can be said for 2D codes of which QR-codes are best known. Last part of this group is 2D image recognition. Most used mobile application is the recognition of a company logo or film poster which will then redirect you to a site for more information.

Being the oldest, this form of AR is the most developed. Its also the simplest and doesn’t involve real time rendering and display of graphics. Some may not even call it AR. General adoption of this technology will happen within a year. Most Nokia phones are already outfitted with the software for 1D and 2D bar code scanning. 2D scanning is stuck on the slope of enlightenment and will be surpassed by 2D image recognition in the coming year.

Examples of 1D & 2D Barcodes:

Examples 2D Image Recognition

LEVEL 1 - Marker Based AR

This is where the hype is now. Augmented reality based on markers. Its the first step for real AR because it enables real time processing of ‘reality’ through the recognition of markers and subsequently real time rendering and display of graphics on top of this reality.

The first type is the 2D Marker AR which is PC and web cam based. Almost all applications work use an Internet connection to retrieve more information. The marker is the black and white square image you print out and hold in front of your web cam to see a 3D animation.

This is what most people are doing. There are also free toolkits to develop applications and now also Flash based which explains a lot of the popularity.

Next step up is 2D Marker AR with a mobile device. This is tricky-er because it involves a lot or real time processing and a very capable phone. For instance it is not possible on the iPhone because the OS does not allow for real time video processing. You also can’t record video with it as yet. It is possible with a hacked iPhone though.

2D Marker AR is most seen on Windows Mobile devices surprisingly enough. Coolest is 3D recognition, where the mobile recognizes a chair or another physical object and goes on to augmented it.

Level 1 - Marker Based AR is moving from the technology trigger to just before the actual peak of inflated expectations. For now it will not go away and in the coming year PC and Mobile 2D marker based AR will be the IN thing. Where the mobile version will be lagging in comparison to the PC based version due to the lack of computing power and other mobile issues. When the novelty is worn off the actual application value will prove to be thin. Its no real money maker except for marketing and PR applications. On the mobile it will last a bit longer when good games come out. The most promising, 3D recognition, is in the tail of Level 1 - Marker Based AR and is hardly a reality yet.

Examples of 2D Marker AR - PC & Web cam based:

Examples of 2D Marker AR - Mobile:

Examples 3D Object Recognition - Mobile:

LEVEL 2 - Markerless AR

Augmented Reality without markers is powerful. Pull out your mobile phone and experience an augmented reality. It can be that simple. Only G1 (the Android - Google phone from T-mobile) owners had the opportunity to experience this with Wikitude from Mobilizy and later ING Wegwijzer. Its based on GPS data and the compass. Because the phone knows where it is (the GPS) and in what direction you are looking (the compass) it can augment reality on the screen correctly.

Level 2 - Markerless AR is halfway the technology trigger and will be nearing the peak of inflated expectations in a year when more phones have the combination of GPS and compass. The Nokia N97 which will be out in the summer will have a compass and will trigger the first non Android Markerless AR applications. It is unknown if the new iPhone will have this capability. It would be HUGH if it did…

Examples of GPS - Compass based AR:

LEVEL 3 - Augmented Vision

This does not exist yet. As Rice says:

“We must break away from the monitor and display to lightweight transparent wearable displays (in an eyeglasses form factor). Once AR becomes AV, it is immersive. The whole experience immediately changes into something more relevant, contextual, and personal. This is radical and changes everything. As I have said before, this will be the next evolution in media. Print, Radio, Television, Internet, Augmented Reality (well, Vision). L3 must also be mobile massively multi-user, persistent, shared, dynamic, and ubiquitous.”

It will be more then 3 years before anything remotely capable will be available. Until then we will have to make do with research news like that of the University of Washington where they are working on displaying pixels in contact lenses .

In Conclusion

To me it’s daunting to see how far there is to go. Yet knowing where we are now, what is coming and how to frame it enables realistic planning and choices. I hope it helps you. I’ll be enjoying the ride and developing some cool AR initiatives with my SPRX partners.

Thanks to all AR bloggers and twitterers who directly and indirectly helped me put this together. Looking forward to see your feedback and more examples in the comments.

- April 2009

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We launched WhereMeNow

At SPRXmobile we believe in explicit location updates instead of implicit (like Latitude). We see that people still are worried around location updates and have the need to actively update their location when desired.

Some of the current worries and problems around loc. updates we see today:

  • Loc. update apps use to much battery because the use of GPS
  • You would like to update your location when you are inside. Inside GPS does not work
  • The degree of accuracy is something you would like regulate. Are you in Amsterdam? or are you on Prinsengracht 404?)
  • You are not sure which apps update where and when. Too many apps slurping your location. Not sure about the interval. You need to manage all these settings.
  • Location Updates when automated are not a social gesture. There is meaning behind location updates. When we automate this the meaning is lost..
  • You need to start up separate apps to update your location. It should be made possible to update from “where” you already are on the web (and that is twitter of course ;-))

That’s why we built WhereMeNow. It’s probably the easiest way to update your location. You regulate the accuracy. You decide when. It uses Twitter to do so.. Here is how it works..

1. Go to and fill in your Twittername and click the link to Fire Eagle button.

2. Authorize WhereMeNow to update your account on FireEagle

3. Done! You now just tweet your location to @wheremenow..

Some cool things about this service:

  • Everybody sees in twitter where you are. Updates are now social.
  • It’s a H.U.M.A.N. who makes the update
  • You get a confirmation tweet back when you updated
  • We will create a personal page on WhereMeNow with you last updated location on[twittername] (planned to launch this tomorrow)
  • We will add a RSS button to your personal page so people can see where you are in other parts of the web.

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Raimo’s talk at the MWG Congress

Last week I gave a presentation at the MWG Congress in The Netherlands. The topic of the event was Experimentation. Personally I don’t believe in experimentation. In this incredible dynamic market, where there is no status quo anymore, one needs to have clear intentions.. During my presentation I used the metaphor of trying to lift one’s leg.. I asked the audience to try to lift their left leg.. Everybody reacted by lifting there leg.. I explained that they raised there leg and did not TRY to raise their leg.

Trying is nothing. You either do or you don’t!

Below you see the presentation and an interview(in dutch) by Ronnie Overgoor touching the topics of the presentation.

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RT: “SPRX, Zcapes and the passion for mobile”

A good e-mail interview was published at the Dutchcowboys weblog on Febuary 6 2009 by Henk de Hooge. This is the translation.

SPRX, Zcapes and the passion for mobile

Everybody knows them by now, Maarten Lens-FitzGerald, Raimo van der Klein and Claire Boonstra. They are the founders of MoMo Amsterdam, one of the most successful Mobile Mondays worldwide. And set up their company SPRXmobile in the streamline and recently initiated a new start-up Zcapes.

Enough reasons to ask some questions to one of the most passionate people I know, one of the first bloggers at Dutchcowboys, @dutchcowboy on Twitter and a lot more. But also someone who saw the other side of life when last year was diagnosed with cancer. An e-mail interview with Maarten Lens-FitzGerald.

What made you start MoMo?


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Zcapes has its first Pitch Posted, Help Vote

Over at Mobile Industry Review you can find our first pitch of Zcapes. It’s out there. So good to see a dream move toward reality.

They also do a digg style pitch context.

Please vote us on top. You need to Register first.

Thanks Ewan

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Written by Maarten in: Context, press, zcapes | Tags: ,

Ready to meet Zcapes?

Well.. This is a big moment for us. We are sharing what zcapes is in detail. The team, the vision behind it and ofcourse the service itself..

The last month we tried to find our words and jargon to explain this completely new mobile service.

Check out the slideshare presentation and let us know what you think.


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The VRM Future will be Mediated by Bots

I just saw and heard the presentation by Daniel Suarez called “Daemon: Bot-Mediated Reality” over at Fora.TV. I was impressed. What put me to this were the repeated recommendations from Jyri Engeström.

Watch it now here or download it (via free registration) and watch, listen or read it later (or order the book). Its an hour and definitely worth it.

Bots are automated/autonomous programs that do things. And their power and their numbers are growing. Growing a lot. This combines to an intelligence like system enabled by ubiquitous connectivity and computation which in turn leads to paths like Kevin Kelly’s machine (article) and Kurzweils singularity. How this will be in detail we can not see, yet the direction is clear. But that is the far future.

A bit closer is what we can do now. Now, today, the Project VRM is developing projects to make their vision happen. A vision of a set of tools, technologies and services that help individuals go to market and manage relationships with vendors. And, in turn, vendors who align themselves to these tools, technologies and services will have the opportunity to build better relationships with their customers.

Projects like the Mine or even Dataportability and OpenID which are ‘outside’ of Project VRM are working towards making the VRM vision happen. These are the tools in development in order to make a VRM world. And these tools, these protocols enable us to ‘talk’ VRM. To build our conversation between individuals and vendors.

The trick is how to cope with the ever complexifing world. As you experience the overload of email and tweets every day this will also happen with a VRM situation full of requests, feeds and api links enabling VRM. So how do we cope? I see that bots will be the answer.

Bots that know where we are, how we feel and what we do, that now our context and manage our incoming and out going conversation, that manage our reputation and ping us humans when needed. They do it already in World of War craft as Suarez tells us (select chapter 7: The Sophistication of Game Bots). In your email you have started already by making filters, the next step is that you make a Yahoo pipe or a Apple script to help you cope. And SPRX is doing its bit by developing Zcapes which will know your context and help you use your shared situation.

Today the tools, protocols and rules of VRM are being developed. Tomorrow the VRM conversation will start and lots of the talking will not done by ourselves, it will be done by Bots. The VRM Future will be Mediated by Bots.

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Quote Magazine Doesn’t Know What Contextual Services Are

SPRX was in the press. Raimo is in the Quote Magazine from January talking about Zcapes and Contextual Services. Unfortunately they didn’t understand Contextual Services.

We’d loved to have explained to them that Contextual Services are more then just Location Based Services. Your context can also be a virtual presence like a chat room where we are talking. We will have the same context (we are chating with each other) but have a different physical location. Zcapes is the first service that is Contextual.

This doesn’t mean we are unhappy. We are always glad when we are mentioned in the press.

Here is a scan, its in Dutch:

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Written by Maarten in: Context, Contextual Services, press | Tags: , , ,

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