30 May 2007

Microsoft Surface

Earlier today, Microsoft has announced a new product called ‘Microsoft Surface’ which marks the beginning of a new technology category and a user-interface revolution. ‘Surface’ provides effortless interaction with digital content through natural hand gestures, touch and physical objects. It aims in changing the way people interact with all kinds of everyday information — from photos to maps to menus. The key concept behind ‘Surface’ is to have a tangible way of interacting with every day objects. Technically speaking, ‘Surface’ uses cameras to sense objects, hand gestures and touch and it is similar to the concept of tangible augmented reality.

Surface computing, features four key attributes including: direct interaction; multi-touch; multi-user; and object recognition. In direct interaction, users can actually “grab” digital information with their hands, interacting with content by touch and gesture, without the use of a mouse or keyboard. In multi-touch, surface computing recognizes many points of contact simultaneously, not just from one finger like a typical touch-screen, but up to dozens of items at once. In multi-user, the horizontal form factor makes it easy for several people to gather around surface computers together, providing a collaborative, face-to-face computing experience. Finally, in object recognition, users can place physical objects on the surface to trigger different types of digital responses, including the transfer of digital content.

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23 May 2007


‘Theseis’ is expected to be coming out sometime in 2007 and it is the first Greek adventure video game for personal computers developed by Track7games. The company was established in 2003 and it is an independent game development team, based in Athens Greece, dedicated to creating innovative game play experiences. The aim of the game is to bring the Greek mythology to the 21st century and the greatest difference with other modern adventure games is that there will be no guns and no killing. However, the focus appears to be very heavily on puzzles and avoiding threats rather than confrontation.

In terms of game play, Theseis features the exploits of Andronicos and Pheve as they try to uncover the truth behind the disappearance of their stepfather. The game combines the realms of the natural and supernatural as brother and sister join forces to put to rest the struggle between good and evil that his disappearance brings about. The areas that are modelled (around 20 locations including areas like Monastiraki and Knossos) are looking very realistic and will be incredibly varied, spanning from the vibrant streets of Athens to the very bowels of Hades.

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19 May 2007

LOCUS Testing: 2D Map vs. 3D Map

The official testing of LOCUS project has started last week and it is taking place at a residential area near City University campus. Position and orientation information is acquired by the LOCUS system and used to indicate to the pedestrian where is located inside a digital 2D map or a virtual 3D map. The main objective of the study is to test responses of pedestrians when performing navigation and wayfinding operations in urban environments using a personal digital assistant (PDA) equipped with a GPS and a digital compass. The GPS is embedded inside the device while the digital compass is located inside a blue tube as shown below.

In the above screenshot a user is performing a wayfinding task using the VR 3D map. A red line, which is overlaid on user-demand through the client-server architecture, represents the virtual route that the pedestrian has to follow in order to navigate from one position to another and thus complete the task. In a similar way, a red line is superimposed in the digital map. In addition, the digital compass is used as a pointing device allowing pedestrians to alter their orientation in an intuitive manner. As soon as the navigation and tests are finished, then the cognitive workload and the feeling of presence will be qualitatively and quantitatively measured.

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10 May 2007

3D Puzzle in AR

One of the most exciting applications of AR is in interactive gaming. At City University, an experimental AR educational application for geography students called ‘an interactive 3D puzzle’ was designed. The objective was to provide a combination of educational and entertainment experiences which can be available in the future to full-time, part-time and distance learning students at City University. For the purpose of the interactive 3D puzzle scenarios a big part of the campus of City University campus was modeled in 3D and two versions were created: one with 3 pieces and one with 6 pieces. Using the functionality of MRGIS the puzzle can be visualized in both VR and AR environments. Students can pick up the marker cards and examine the geometrical and geographical information in a tangible manner.

An advantage of this gaming application is that it is possible to collaborate with other users that could stand around the table-top environment and either give advice or play the game. Multiple users can naturally experiment with different combinations by randomly placing the marker cards close to each other. Meaningful textual feedback can be also provided during the game. Furthermore, this application has been demonstrated in GeoInformation Group’s Cities Revealed Event 2005 conference as well as informally to a number of postgraduate students in the department of Information Science (City University). The feedback we have received was that the AR interface is very easy to use even if there is much more work required for an educational application that can be used in practice.

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