July 11th, 2006

Mad scientist

Augmented Reality

We've been playing with the BBC's Augmented Reality software. Basically, you stand in front of a web cam holding bits of card with various patterns on them - the computer generates a real-time image of a 3D model that appears above the card, and moves with it. For example, you can hold a 3D model atom and twist it around, move it closer to the camera for a better look, etc. Set it up with the camera above a projector screen and it's like you're standing in front of a magic mirror.

The one we've played with most has one card as the model of a block of solid iodine (about five by five by three molecules) with two cards that are "heating" and "cooling". Put the heating card near the block and the molecules vibrate then start to spread up a virtual "tube", cool them and they settle back down again. There's a much more sophisticated atomic model, but it doesn't do as much. Another one that's coming is models of various internal organs - just put badges with the symbols on your chest etc.

At the moment it isn't perfect - images sometimes flip or vanish depending on how you hold the card - but it's going to be free, and runs on an ordinary (e.g. 2ghz) PC with no special hardware apart from the web cam. It'll eventually be on line as a free download, I believe, with lots of models available.

I've already thought about some game possibilities, but obviously development of the software and the educational stuff comes first. Keep an eye open, it's a technology that's going to be big in the next few years.

Diana revision

Forgot to mention that I've revised the PDF for Diana: Warrior Princess, adding the missing Science attribute to the character sheet and (more importantly) bookmarks and links from the table of contents. Anyone who downloaded it from e23 should be getting an automated notice to tell them the new version is on line but I don't know how quickly that'll happen.