Up till now, the fake augmented reality (AR) seen in various guises in movies like Minority Report have been largely confined to Hollywood and science fiction.
But by the looks of the latest video demos, AR seems to be tantalisingly close. Crucially, basic AR is now possible with nothing more than a mobile phone, unlike previous demos which have involved walking around with a large backpack strapped to your body.
The video below shows basic AR in action in the form of an AR shooter: a game titled Arhrrrr which blends live action video overlayed with game graphics.
The processing is taken care of by Nvidia's new Tegra platform, while the game's "maps" are generated by pointing the phones camera (in this case 5MP) at a 2D drawing/printout lying on a table.
The end result is a 3D world which seems to spring forth in realtime, with buildings popping up, as players move the real world around the game "map".
An earlier VR attempt by the developers, at Developers at Georgia Tech Augmented Environments Lab and the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD-Atlanta), shows a virtual city created out of a box sitting on revolving office chair.
The gaming world is also supplying technology with intriguing potential for use in AR gaming and virtual worlds - specifically, motion control devices in the form of the Nintendo Wii and Microsoft's new Natal platform.
Natal can recognise a player's skeletal structure, as well as doing some sophisticated translation of body physics into in-game movement. As a control mechanism this is fascinating, but next step is to merge the game graphics with the real world. This is something game developers are beginning to try.
This augmented reality demonstration video (embedded below) shows how far AR could go. At point 2:35 in the video shows an virtual cityscape and car chase, overlayed onto table surface. At point 2:58 the demonstrator puts a real-life object (a toy bus) into the game "world" - the game detects the object and incorporates the bus into the gameplay.
At point 4:06 in the video, the demonstrator "sees" advertising and other elements on a real-life hardcopy newspaper come to life on the screen of a handheld computer.
Another video below, shows the ability to place 3D elements from Google Earth on a "real" desktop.
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