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Microsoft's Augmented Reality, Video Photosynth 97

Al writes "Microsoft demonstrated new augmented-reality software for cell-phones at the 2009 TechFest conference, which was held this week in Redmond. Instead of using GPS or WiFi triangulation, the prototype system relies entirely on scene-recognition to identify its position and add virtual objects to a video picture of the real world. TechFest is a showcase for lots of projects at Microsoft's various research labs. Other technologies on show included Photosynth for video, an image-tracking system for handwriting, a way of refining image searches using colors, and a 3-D version of Microsoft Surface."
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Microsoft's Augmented Reality, Video Photosynth

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  • Who says.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by QuantumG ( 50515 ) * <qg@biodome.org> on Thursday February 26, 2009 @11:43PM (#27008011) Homepage Journal

    Microsoft speeds too much money on research that they fail to turn into products.

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by TubeSteak ( 669689 )

      Microsoft speeds too much money on research that they fail to turn into products.

      The visual processing algorithms they've developed are worth big bucks all by themselves.
      Even if Microsoft doesn't execute this 'right', now that the idea is out there, someone else will

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by djupedal ( 584558 )

        > "The visual processing algorithms they've developed..."

        Not hardly. Please don't do that - don't start another MS myth.

        Algotithms such as these have been in existence since at least 2002 [rit.edu] when 'Augmented Reality' (and display hardware) surfaced at domestic universities. The phrase was originated by Jaron Lanier, the founder of VPL Research - a respected outfit which was started in a Palo Alto cottage; 1984.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          > "The visual processing algorithms they've developed..."

          Not hardly. Please don't do that - don't start another MS myth.

          Algotithms such as these have been in existence since...

          Someone should have told Google back in 2000 that such a thing as a web search results algorithm already existed. Hell the phrase "search engine" had originated years before Larry and Sergey even thought of Google. Those fools thought they could make money off of improving a previously existing technology with their own patentable work--such silliness.

          Also, fuck you.

          • by jo42 ( 227475 )

            Google almost went bankrupt before Larry and Sergey figured out bodging advertising to search. Today Google's primary business is advertising. Not search, not email, not maps, not anything else. They use the $$$$$$$$$$ from advertising to fund everything else they do to the point where they have become the 1000 pound gorilla that makes it next to impossible to compete with.

            • Perhaps you meant that they're primary revenue stream is from advertising. I absolutely agree. But they're primary focus (in terms of resources allocated) still remains in development/refining/protection-of their search results algorithm. The relevancy of their search results has always been their greatest product - without it all that advertising revenue would vanish. Advertising?! They haven't spent 1/2 the same time/energy managing their advertisers. They may not always be, but they have been so far, pri
          • Also, fuck you.

            The point of your parent is that crediting Microsoft with pioneering these algorithms is sort of akin to saying Al Gore invented the Internet.

            While Microsoft may have in fact taken augmented reality into the domain of cellphones and made the tech more accessible and mainstream, they should not be credited with inventing the technology.

            None of this is to say that the grandparent (TubeSteak's post) suggests Microsoft invented this technology. I'm only pointing out that all of this defensive a

      • They're only worth big bucks thanks to patent law.

        Just saying.

        We all cheer pure R&D and then scream and cry when someone like microsoft defends their patents.

    • by shawnap ( 959909 ) on Friday February 27, 2009 @12:29AM (#27008247)

      ..., and a 3-D version of Microsoft Surface.

      Microsoft Volume?

    • Microsoft speeds too much money on research that they fail to turn into products.

      Well, they're one of the only companies left on the planet with a substantial "academic" research operation.

      Bell Labs and PARC might not have been profitable for their corporate overlords in the short-term, but produced research that had a profound impact on society at large.

      Microsoft may have some rather unsavory business practices (as did AT&T and Xerox), though I'd encourage them to continue to pump money into research as long as they're willing to.

      At the worst, it keeps geeks like us employed. At b

      • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

        by QuantumG ( 50515 ) *

        Err.. Heard of IBM? How about Sun Labs? Microsoft Research is a joke. It's where academic careers go to die.

  • ...Microsoft already had augmented reality tech running on everything? Seems to be the only explanation for about 1/2 of everything they do/
  • I have always wondered whether Google Maps uses similar technology. Otherwise how are they (Google) able to show continuously smooth images of a neighborhood?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by moniker127 ( 1290002 )
      Simple. Images load in the background and fade in once loaded. They use DHTML. With proper coding, DHTML is a lot more powerful than people give it credit for being.
    • by jipn4 ( 1367823 )

      I have always wondered whether Google Maps uses similar technology.

      Image stitching has been around for a long time, and Photosynth is based on a lot of technology and research developed elsewhere.

      Photosynth caught on because (1) there are lots of images to stitch now, (2) because they did a good engineering job stitching images that were taken under different conditions, and (3) they did a good engineering job on the UI.

  • They should come out with videosmith, like songsmith but it generates a video for what you're singing!
  • Blue Danube (Score:5, Funny)

    by gmuslera ( 3436 ) on Friday February 27, 2009 @12:12AM (#27008159) Homepage Journal
    When you see it with their cell phones, sometimes it suddently display a text with that background. Is like magic!

    Too bad that text starts saying "A problem has been detected and Window has been shut down"
  • Perhaps this is a sign that Redmond is finally starting to focus on being really good at a focused area instead of generally mediocre (or worse) at a huge number of things. It would be a welcome change. Now if we could just convince them that it's cool to port stuff to something non-Windows after a fashion. I don't have any issues with them releasing early versions of things for Windows, but refusing to open themselves up to a larger market is a bummer. I suppose they could make Windows enjoyable to use - i

    • That just isn't how microsoft operates, and it never will be. They are just too damned competitive, they must have their hand in every cookie jar. Its probably why they're so successful.
    • I wouldn't be inclined to disagree with the notion that MS is improving in some areas(they could hardly go the other way); but is a scattershot exhibition of vaguely similar prototypes of assorted stuff from MS Research really a good sign of increased focus?
    • by jipn4 ( 1367823 )

      Perhaps this is a sign that Redmond is finally starting to focus on being really good at a focused area instead of generally mediocre (or worse) at a huge number of things.

      So, you are saying that Microsoft should become a computer vision company? I don't think so.

      Besides, little of what they are showing is unique to Microsoft; lots of other companies and research groups have shown stitching and augmented reality.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 27, 2009 @12:42AM (#27008317)

    Steve Jobs demonstrated the Reality Distortion Field as far back as 1982, when he took over the Macintosh project.

  • So... instead of using wifi and GPS for pinpoint accurate pinpoint awareness, Microsoft's answer is of course the less efficient and error prone one: nothing but image recognition. How will this perform in low light conditions or areas that haven't been previously photographed and added to the database?

    I already have Wikitude on my Android phone and it's outstanding, so I don't see a breakthrough or any innovation here. Just another example of MS doing things the harder, slower, more error-prone way and cal

    • Wikitude is a totally different concept.

      What Microsoft is going for here is twofold: Firstly, being able to locate where an image was taken by simply analyzing the image (this could be pictures from a history book, or your family photo album- something for which location data was not available)

      Secondly, being able to specify. GPS, Wifi, and cell tower triangulation become very much less accurate in large cities. Analysis based on pictures could be very much more accurate, with a sufficient number of images

  • Rainbows End (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ShakaUVM ( 157947 ) on Friday February 27, 2009 @01:04AM (#27008417) Homepage Journal

    Reminds me of a book I read last month, Rainbows End.

    People run around with 3d goggles on that overlays 3d graphics over the real world, for work and fun.

    The author lives here in San Diego, so it was fun to hear him talking about people overlaying Terry Pratchett-style graphics over the interstates I drive on all the time.

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Many years before i really heard much about AR i thought how it would be cool to have a pair of glasses and a pocket computer that would overlay graphics, always thought it would be cool to play certain games in the real world, like zombie outbreak, imagine how fun and freaky that would be, you might look like silly to anyone around you but eventually it would catch on.

      I believe this will be the next big thing since the internet and mobile phones so companies really need to put more effort into bringing it

    • Yeah, funny thing is I read that and thought "well this will likely take longer than a decade and a half to see" (I read it when it first came out - I think the book was based in about 2023, IIRC).

      I didn't think we were anything close to that. I'd never heard of augmented reality before. I'm amazed they are this far along... 12 month double... double that in 12 mos... double... double... etc, etc... Hell we might actually get there!

      Hardware is very predictable, but software isn't. I didn't think w
  • If you're wondering Hadn't I seen something like this before? you're not alone. Photosynth has been covered numerous times here on /.: Goog search [google.com]

    A choice video demo-ing the original technology can be found here [ted.com].

  • Not mentioned in either of the two original links, but this page features a clip of the augmented reality technology:

    http://gamesalfresco.com/2009/02/24/microsoft-to-demo-augmented-reality-at-techfest/ [gamesalfresco.com]

  • This reminds me of the Altered Reality Quake suit [unisa.edu.au] that was mentioned in a 2002 slashdot article [slashdot.org].

    • That AR Quake is really cool. I wish the framerate on their video captures didn't suck so much, though. If I could map out a course around my neighborhood, I'd be more inclined to go out and run for exercise.

  • My concern, as Luddite as it sounds, is that it takes us further and further from reality. It augments our perception of what reality really is. Nothing will be satisfying enough unless it has an overlay on it, apparently adding "value", but in reality, detracting from it. Sure there will be benefits from such technology, but everything is a two-edged sword.
    • by hoooocheymomma ( 1020927 ) on Friday February 27, 2009 @02:27AM (#27008817)

      Sure there will be benefits from such technology, but everything is a two-edged sword.

      except for single-edged swords

    • Sure it detracts in reality but what about in augmented reality? :)

      But really, I don't get your point. Who wouldn't want to replace physical billboards and crap with virtual information? Let's clean shit up so you don't have to waste your time trying to figure things out everywhere you go. Sounds good to me!

    • Well, one thing to consider is that our senses only grasp a small part of reality, and in a rather warped way too. Augmentation might let us see more reality, or a less biased version of it.
    • by redxxx ( 1194349 )

      At the very least, it's a lot of extra information to be taking in. Once someone is adjusted to it, it's absence could, in some cases, be uncomfortable.

      I don't really know about the "Nothing will be satisfying enough unless it has an overlay on it", I figure I'd treat them like horrible webpages and run RealityMonkey(tm). The bigger issue is at some point I'm going to have to take them off. If you think crackberries are bad, good AR is going to be about a hundred times worse(obviously they'd be used for

    • It sounds luddite because it is luddite. The same has been said just about everything new, that it removes us from nature, that it distances us from our humanity or that it creates a dependence on something new.

      You could easily apply your argument to say cellphones or the automobile. The cellphone seemingly adds value by enabling us to communicate at any time but in reality it detracts from the value of real conversation. The automobile apparently adds value but in reality it detracts from the value of a
      • by Walaci ( 1488139 )
        Yes, everything is a two edged sword. It's easier to see into the near future than the distant future... who knows how much long term pain balances short term gain?
        • Both of my examples were picked to be obviously false. I'm of the opinion that progress is generally a single edged sword in the long term.
  • I've played a game on a Nokia phone that utilises the camera and some software just like this too. you then need to turn around (yourself with the phone in your hand) to shoot down enemies from all around you (including up and downlooking too). The software was even sophisticated enough to understand walls and objects in RL that enemies could hide behind!
    • by lw0x15 ( 1421129 )

      Which phone is that ? one of the newer ones i guess..? You got me pretty interested.

      • It's just software... It was a downloadable java game from a third party developper and I played it on a Nokia n95 I believe.
  • There were some guys doing this for the Google developer's contest on Android back in the day: http://www.enkin.net/ [enkin.net]

    There's a video that shows you how well it worked -- don't know what happened to them, though.

  • Isn't this photo thing nothing more than replacing a simple solution (GPS) with an extremely complicated one??? Way to go, MR! Your string of impractical duds continues.
  • That was the first place I ever heard of Augmented Reality. Really though, I'm just a bit afraid of AR obscuring what needs to be seen when walking down the street, kind of like how some FPS games make you play through this little window that isn't obscured by the HUD.

Suburbia is where the developer bulldozes out the trees, then names the streets after them. -- Bill Vaughn