Today I was invited to view the beta setup for a very interesting augmented reality presentation system by Canon at the Loewentor Museum of Natural History in Stuttgart. The presentation touched on so many aspects of computer visualization and presentation that it was in itself a true cross-over event. The technology – while innovative – won’t be new to anyone in the industry. What is good, is that Canon is approaching production readiness for an off-the shelf hardware solution. The setup wasn’t a tech demo – it was an audience screening of sorts. A mounted dinosaur skeleton was presented in front of a prehistoric landscape and loads of unsightly tracking markers (don’t worry about those – Canon has numerous tracking options in development). Before all of this are the visitors and two hand-held bulky goggles (don’t worry about the bulky, either). Over the weekend, the museum is overrun with visitors and these were the star of the presentation, because the whole setup served to research the reception of technology and content among the audiences.
Visitors of all ages had the chance to encounter a dinosaur in 3D, moving around it while an informational ‘film’ was run. As a finale, it then came to life, jumped off its podium and greeted its viewers. Prof. Dr. Stephan Schwan (Knowledge Media Research Center) directed the studies, with the intent of finding out about how this kind of presentation affects short-term and long-term reception. Psychology, education, exhibit design, perception studies, AR technology and paleontology, all in one bunch! Its not often that disciplines rub elbows this way, and I was thrilled by the authenticity of the occasion.
Masahide Hamatani (Canon) laid out Canon’s future in augmented reality with exemplary projects not only in exhibit design, but product testing, archeology and architecture. Its likely all us computer artists will be getting up from our desks in the near future and working with airCAD. For my back – it can’t happen soon enough! A highlight was Dr. Makoto Manabe of the National Science Museum in Tokyo as he talked about exhibit design, including such inspired inventions as the “pig roast” theropod mount which allows the viewer to explore the skeleton from all angles, and the comparative a man/bird mount. Fantastic! Thanks as well to Tomotsugu Kondo (Open University of Japan). And extra thanks to Richard Leheis for tipping me off to this event in the first place!