OBOTO – Rise of the Robots

OBOTO – Digital Pet (Robot) Showcases Advanced Augmented Reality

Since co-founding Ogmento back in 2009… a goal for the company has always been to creatie immersive augmented reality experiences, including the ability to place characters and other digital interactive content seamlessly into the physical world.

The key to a truly magical and immersive experience is in the tracking.  Powerful computer vision algorithms come into play in order to seamlessly tie the virtual to the physical.  With Ogmento  focusing on premium AR experiences,, we are now highlight some of our tracking capabilities with the introduction of OBOTO, and a little robot named Oggie.

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With our prototype OBOTO app (available for iPhone) we are testing out the idea of a digital toy robot that can interact and track to the physical world without the use of markers, printouts, or any pre-setup.  To date, the need for markers, printouts, or a lengthy set-up process have prevented Augmented Reality (AR) from true mass adoption.  These initialization methods are intrusive, and ultimately barriers to entrance for many mobile content enthusiasts looking to experience the magic of AR instantly.

When it comes to offering an engaging augmented reality experience (one which can be enjoyed anytime, anywhere), Ogmento believes a zero-initialization tracking solution in a natural environment is key.  The release of OBOTO, Ogmento’s first original project, showcases such a solution.

Users can place Oggie into any environment they wish — on a table, on the floor, in middle of the street, in their hand, etc.  Oggie will track to the environment instantly, allowing the user to pan, zoom, and move around creating a seamless mixed-reality experience.  This zero-initialization, natural feature tracking AR, allows for instant immersion, which is key.

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Photo and video features allow users to get creative and show off with their very own digital pet robot.

If people enjoy the notion of virtual characters in the real world, and  the character interactions that come along with that, there are endless opportunities for this type of application. Virtual pets, mascots, toys, and more. With the added ability to unlock exclusive content based on location, and brand recognition as well, this is a content model that has no limits, and will only continue to grow.

Be sure to download and check out OBOTO, and let me know what you think.  If your company, agency or brand have ideas in mind based on this content model, I’d love to explore opportunities with you.

Relavant Links

ogmento.com/apps/oboto

facebook.com/ObotoCentral

youtube.com/ObotoCentral

twitter.com/ObotoCentral

The Rise of Sensor-Based Apps and Wearables

I’m a big fan of sensor-based apps and personal wearables, as they bring with them vast potential for utilizing motivational data, content and feedback loops for things like self-improvement, optimal health and ultimately the gamification of every day life.

Nike has been playing a leadership role in this area for a few years now with their Nike+ sensor and app, and they are stepping it up once again with the release of the new Nike+ FuelBand.

While not perfect, the FuelBand has some very nice design features, and brings a new metric approach for motivating users to be active throughout the day.

Designed as a stylish and sleek bracelet (not too different than those yellow LiveStrong bangles), the FuelBand represents forward movement in tech fashion, with a device people might actually wear on a daily basis. As a bracelet on the wrist, rather than a chip tucked away in a shoe, it allows for a simple feedback display to be  viewed throughout the day. Here again, Nike has done a smart job to simplify this data down to some core metrics, along with with a power-meter that gets longer  in length and hotter in color the more “fuel” the wearer burns.  This meter-bar clearly indicates that feedback loops are key for continued motivational aspects.  Rather than pulling out your Nano, or iPhone, just look at the wrist as if checkin the time.

The Nike+ Fuel Band tracks your daily activity using an internal accelerometer (which senses your movement).  Time, Calories, Steps and NikeFuel are all tracked. The new “Fuel” metric is interesting and unique to Nike, as it matches a person’s movement through the wristband’s accelerometer against data collected on how rapidly oxygen is consumed.  This may not be the best way to track fitness, as it still relies primarily on an accelerometer, and the readings will vary greatly depending on how much you move your arm. If you were to ride a bike the sensor would probably read this activity as burning less Fuel than if you were sitting in a chair just waving your hand around.

While, I am not yet sold that the Fuel Band will be a big hit, or that it brings tremendous value for the price, I am impressed with what it represents as a sign of where things are going in sensor-based wearables and apps. We are only getting started.

As chip prices keep coming down, and sensors keep getting smaller, they will get embedded in more and more wearables, such as watches, clothing, jewelry…  and the feedback displays will likely end up moving onto our eyewear and sunglasses, utilizing heads-up-display technology. This is when things get even more interesting from my standpoint. The user can now have an always-on feedback loop, monitoring things like heart-rate, and eventually things like stress levels, blood pressure and more.

Once we start to gamily the feedback loops, or one can imagine how achieving our optimal health will become much more manageable and fun with such tech. Signs that this world is not so far off can be seen with announcements like this one, for Googles HUD Glasses.

Here is a mock-up image I made a while back for a presentation on LBS & AR Gaming.  The idea here is that we will someday be able to wear stylish Heads-Up-Display enabled eyewear, which could feed us our biometric data, along with other stats and game elements throughout the day. This example highlights the idea of a Nike+ AR  Pac-Man type App — set a course, and see GPS enabled landmarks as motivational collectibles to race towards and gobble up within a certain amount of time.  Comparing scores and results against friends in this type of game scenario would certainly be a nice evolution to the Nike Tag challenge program we have today.

There are a few players in this field now, with Jawbone, Fitbit, Motorola, and a couple others releasing their versions of wristbands, watches, etc.. for tracking daily activity.  I imagine there will be more entrants in the coming years.  Still, Nike continues to be a major brand associated with health and fitness and will likely continue to play a strong role in the evolution of tracking our daily lives.

I’d love to hear from people focused in this field professionally, and get your take on the state of this industry, and where things are going. As Ogmento continues to develop Location-Based Augmented Reality games and content, the convergence of these two worlds in a few years is inevitable.

My Conversation with James Cameron

I don’t make it a habit of sharing personal conversations on my blog, but when the individual you are exchanging ideas with happens to be James Cameron, it’s very difficult not to share (okay brag) a little.

I was invited to a private Avatar screening on the Fox Studio lot, presented by James Cameron and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). The screening showed about an hours worth of the film, and focused on the strong environmental message throughout. James Cameron spoke after the film on the amazing reception the movie has made with environmentally conscious people. He discussed his passion for nature, technology, and much more (Have you seen his 3D undersea documentaries?). The irony that Avatar uses state-of-the-art “technology” to tell a story about “getting back to nature” does not get past him. It is this topic — “using technology to better the planet” that I was most interested in speaking with Mr. Cameron about.

The screening was followed by a reception, where I got to meet and speak with Mr. Cameron for about 10 minutes. We spoke primarily about Augmented Reality, which played a large role in the making and marketing of Avatar.

Coke, Mattel, and McDonald’s used Augmented Reality to integrate the Avatar brand into their cans, toys and happy meals. James Cameron also used AR technology in the filming of Avatar, to pre-visualize his actors within the CG scenes live, and in real-time. For those familiar with motion capture animation technology. Mr. Cameron pushed this further… creating a system that allowed him to observe on a monitor how the actors’ virtual counterparts interacted with the movie’s digital world in a real time environment. He was able to adjust and direct the scenes as if shooting live action, but in a computer generated world.

Mr. Cameron and I started to speak about the power of entertainment and games to motivate people to action towards bettering the world, and this is where things really got interesting. It became clear immediately that this was our shared passion… to not only entertain and engage people… but to motivate people towards good. I shared a bit about my past projects like Superdudes, and the notion of “games with goals” really resonated with Mr. Cameron.

It’s fairly clear that a movie like Avatar is a success because it delivers on many levels… beyond box office numbers, it entertains, and it gets people to think… and maybe even act! I would not be surprised if all the talk about the 3D technology and the enormous box office of Avatar are soon overshadowed by the message and impact of the movie itself on our society.

Needless to say it was a great honor to be able to talk about things like augmented reality, technology, movies, games, and the environment with James Cameron. It is my hope that the work we do at Ogmento can make a similar impact with people the way Avatar did… delivering content that immerses people into a new world… entertains, engages, challenges…and as a bonus perhaps motivates people to take action and do their part in making the world a better place.

Year of the Technology Tiger

My first post in 2010. Since it is already February, and the start of the Chinese (Lunar) New Year… I wish everybody a Xin nian kuai le!

2010 is the Year of the Tiger, which is associated with good fortune, power, and royalty. The Tiger is viewed with both fear and respect; hence, their protection and wisdom is sought after. Some Chinese Zodiac forcasts say that drama, intensity, change and travel will be keywords for 2010. The Year of the Tiger will bring far reaching changes for everyone. New inventions and incredible technological advances have a good chance of occurring. Everything happens quickly and dramatically in a Tiger year – blink and you could miss an important chance of a lifetime!

Predictions of dramatic change and technological advances seem to come true on a daily basis these days. Our future is happening at an accellerated rate. In futures studies and the history of technology, accelerating change is an increase in the rate of technological (and sometimes social and cultural) progress throughout history, which may suggest faster and more profound change in the near future.

I can’t help but think of Ray Kurzweil and his essay on the Law of Accelerating Returns, which implies that a technological singularity will occur before the end of the 21st century.

The essay begins:

“An analysis of the history of technology shows that technological change is exponential, contrary to the common-sense ‘intuitive linear’ view. So we won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century—it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today’s rate). The ‘returns,’ such as chip speed and cost-effectiveness, also increase exponentially. There’s even exponential growth in the rate of exponential growth. Within a few decades, machine intelligence will surpass human intelligence, leading to the Singularity—technological change so rapid and profound it represents a rupture in the fabric of human history. The implications include the merger of biological and nonbiological intelligence, immortal software-based humans, and ultra-high levels of intelligence that expand outward in the universe at the speed of light.”

Conscider this… So far in the month of February (in the past 2 weeks), we have seen headlines like this (just Google them):

– Scientists develop universal DNA reader to advance faster, cheaper sequencing efforts
– Microsoft adds ‘Augmented Reality’ to Bing Maps
– Boring conversation? Let your computer listen for you
– Researchers Develop Nanofiber-Based Technology to Make Energy-Efficient Lighting
– Wi-Fi at the Speed of Light
– Google Ultrafast Broadband May Shake Up Fiber Market
– Researchers develop ‘lab on a chip’ that detects viruses
– Google leaps language barrier with translator phone
– An Early Warning System for Cancer
– Scientists identify first genetic variant linked to biological aging in humans
– First germanium laser brings us closer to ‘optical computers’
– NASA, GM team up to build robotic astronauts
– ‘Nanobubbles’ kill cancer cells
– Physicist Discovers How to Teleport Energy
– Multitouch ‘Skin’ Transforms Surfaces Into Interactive Screens
– Spray-on liquid glass is about to revolutionize almost everything
– Researchers perform complete genomic sequencing of brain cancer cell line

Phew!

So… as we kick off the year of 2010; one associated with Tiger-like qualities of intensity and change… I can only imagine we are in for a wild ride, especially when it comes to advancements in technology. Let’s be sure to harness this energy and power for positive world change. If we dont, it just might bite us in the ass!