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As the sensors and chips in portable electronics become more powerful, augmented reality (AR) is starting to give consumers new ways to blend virtual and real-world information.

The iPhone and devices powered by Google’s Android OS already have some AR apps, but these are mostly limited to overlaying directions or tourist information on a view of the real world.

At this week’s International Symposium on Mixed and Augmented Reality (ISMAR 09) in Orlando, Florida, leading researchers will present systems designed to push the boundaries of AR–allowing users to interact with and manipulate virtual data, share real and virtual space with others, and see real time information around them.

Here are some of the most exciting projects presented at ISMAR 09.

Augmented Sketches

Researchers in the Human Interface Technology Laboratory at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand have developed a system that brings sketches to life with AR. “This work aims at encouraging people to create and interact with 3D content in a fun way, using sketching as a means for communication,” says Oriel Bergig, a researcher at the Visual Media Lab at the Ben-Gurion University in Israel, who collaborated on the project. The technology could be used in games, advertisements, and educational applications, according to the team.

Multi-Touch Interaction

To accurately augment the real world, AR systems will need to become better at tracking the position of objects. Most commercial systems rely on GPS, which works for directions but can be crude for exact positioning.Another interactive AR system developed at the HIT lab, called SSTT Touch, lets users manipulate dynamic, 3D objects with their fingers.

Tracking Multiple Objects

Another research project is focused on simultaneously, another important feature if AR is to be used for more complicated, real-world tasks. This video shows multiple-object-recognition software created by Oxford University professor David Murray and Robert Castle, a researcher at the computing vision company 2d3.

Maintaining Personal Virtual Space

The next video shows a project developed by researcher Ohan Oda and professor Steven Feiner at Columbia University. It demonstrates a way for users to share the same virtual environment in an AR game without bumping into each other. A technique called Redirected Motion displaces each user’s virtual display as illustrated in this virtual domino-toppling game. This lets users, whose eyes are fixed on a screen–engage in AR systems withough not interfering with each other.

Adding Real-Time Information

And finally, here’s a pretty cool AR mapping system from the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Computational Perception Laboratory. This system adds dynamic, real-time information, such as traffic or weather, to aerial Earth from Google Maps or Microsoft Virtual Earths, turning these mapping applications into an impressive augmented environment.

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Tagged: Computing, displays, mapping, augmented reality

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