Monday, November 21, 2016

Augmented Reality takes me back to the good ole’ days.

I grew up in a rural farming town in the Northwest.  

In most ways my childhood was idyllic despite a much simpler technological era.  We didn’t have the Internet in our home until I was in my teenage years.  The family would occasionally gather around a 19” TV in the evenings but living in a small town meant that we would only get 3 channels with any reliable reception.  I’m sure that young adults even ten years my junior are now asking the question, “what did you do with all your time?”

One of the perks of living on the outskirts was that, upon moving to the area, my parents had purchased 2 acres of property.  A small cherry orchard out back of the house was my source of entertainment for many of my childhood years.  Digging shallow ditches in the ground and using a hose as our water source, my older brother and I could easily spend several hours a day playing in the mud.

What does any of this have to do with Augmented Reality?  I feel pretty strongly that augmented and virtual realities have the potential to come full circle in pairing technology with real life experiences.  There are at least a dozen logistical reasons that my children can’t have the same experience of playing unattended in the mud that I once enjoyed.  I realize that at this point I start to date myself as I talk about the good ole’ days but bear with me.  I am not proposing that we move away from technology as a society but rather we embrace the aspects of technology that allow all of us to get back to a place of creativity, learning, playing, and inventing.

So, do you want to play in the mud again?  Build yourself an augmented reality sandbox based on the work done by Oliver Kreylos.  To prove my point, you can watch this video of me playing in an AR sandbox.  Or better yet, don’t watch it and go create your own to play in.  After having this installation in my middle school library, I can attest to the fact that kids are still kids and they still enjoy the benefits of simply playing around.  Oh yeah, if you’re not following the playing in the mud and sand analogy, insert any other thing you’ve ever experienced or can imagine, that is the power behind AR / VR.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Photogrammetry and Me - 3D Models from Photos

As I type this post, my computer wants to auto correct the word photogrammetry; I promise I didn't make it up.  Actually, photogrammetry is hardly a new concept but it is one that I feel hasn't received the attention that it deserves.  The basic premise is to use various static photos and lots of computing power to map out an area in 3d space.

Perhaps a more simple application of a similar type of technology is photo stitching.  This function is present in most mobile camera apps that are able to create panorama or photosphere pictures.  Photogrammetry adds it's secret sauce to account for information about the depth of the image after which it can create a 3d model or scene.

123D Catch by Autodesk is one of the easiest and most polished examples of this software.  

Here's a quick capture I did on my desk at work.  The post it notes are to help with reference and you can see that the process captured a little bit of the surrounding area as well.  From here, the model can be imported into another Autodesk app like Meshmixer to be cleaned up.  The whole process is extremely easy for anyone, even young children, to master.

Where to go from here?

This same principle is being used to create larger 3d scans of entire scenes.  Check out the model below of a scene stitched together using drone footage.  I find this type of scan particularly intriguing and can't wait to experiment with my students. Stay tuned for more posts on the subject :).  Comment below and join in on the conversation if you have experience using photogrammetry in the classroom or have plans to do so.

Once you have created a 3d model of a real world model or scene, bringing those images into Virtual Reality is getting easier and easier.  Check out some of my other posts about using VR viewers to show 3d models.

Sketchfab and the Wonderful World of WebVR
Dynamic 3D Viewers for VR

Additional resources for those researching photogrammetry: