Tag Archives: hot topic

Augmented Reality

Great Idea

Augmented reality is the overlaying of digital information over real world imagery in real time – a mix of computer graphics and live video if you will.  An example of this you will have seen already is watching sport – the live video has information such as scores and other data broadcast with it the replay shows direction and trajectory of the ball.  The beauty of augmented reality is that the observer can then interact with the digital part and pull up information relating to the video.

Imagine walking down a UK high street with your phone on camera – you stop and view the high street for a restaurant, on your phone an overlay shows you menu items pulled from the restaurant’s online menu, shows you reviews from newspapers and so forth.

Science fiction? No, this is available right now from a startup called Layar, with content localised from Yellow Pages, Google, Flickr and Wikipedia (http://www.layar.eu).

Modern smartphones such as iPhones and Google Android devices can determine their location through GPS and an internal compass, they can download data through mobile broadband connections, and they have reasonably powerful graphics-processing capabilities.  These features make up the necessary ingredients for mobile augmented reality.

Whilst consumer applications have come first, the possibilities are endless for retail, medicine, education, engineering and construction.

Imagine standing at a construction site – viewing it with the wireframe model overlaid.

What value would that have for the client or in planning submission or public consultation?

This is far better than a traditional 2D CGI or expensive model. As nice as they are, CGIs and models do not place the viewer in the site; they do not have context and relevance. But actually visualising the building or space in its real position, albeit a muddy field, will speak volumes.

Imagine being able to click on a balcony four floors up and get the flat’s information – number of bedrooms, sales cost, floor plan, the environmental specifications etc.  As a potential buyer this would be fantastic.

And being able to “view” the shadows of buildings play across the plot and any existing buildings thorough a time-lapsed year – what would that be worth?

By blending augmented reality with local social media sites – blogs and wikis set up to allow comment on new developments, one could obtain residents’ actual (and future) comments, images and questions on the design resulting in a very interactive and pertinent consultation.

During construction, site visits could be augmented by being able to view the actual versus the planned in 3D whilst at site, simply pointing youriPhone at the building and seeing the actual and the digital overlaid.

Post-construction, facilities management and maintenance could walk round the finished building – being able to “click” on the building components and getting specifications, data, construction methods, or being able to control the elements – HVAC, security, fire, lift logic and so forth.  This would be further enhanced by the use of BIM (Building Information Model) CAD tools and software in the design process.

If you are in IT, imagine being able to scan a floor space and obtain network diagrams and floor port information super-imposed over the top, the helpdesk to-do list superimposed over your colleagues heads as you walk bout, or to view a PC or server rack and peruse its environmental information and alert logs – and then to able to dip into control and rectify.

The possibilities for this “new” technology are constrained only by our own visions of use of technology and the hardware with which to support it.

At the moment, companies are nibbling at the edges of the technology, with no commercial products yet on the market, but with all the opportunities out there it is surely only a matter of time before someone grasps the mantle.

If you would like to investigate a little further, Wikitude is an augmented reality application available now for both iPhone and Google Android phones.  It overlays Wikipedia information on the image http://www.wikitude.org/world_browser – a little buggy, but it is early days and I firmly believe that applications such as this will literally change the way we view and interact with our environment.  There is great potential here for truly life improving applications, the internet is going mobile and search is going graphical and contextual.  It will be a brave new world.

US Clamps down on its bloggers

ShoutThe federal trade commission in the States announced this week that any goods or monies received by an individual blogging should be declared.  I see no problem in that whatsoever, but it has caused quite a stir and mixture of opinions – most of those against it are bloggers and I think they doth protest too much!

The internet is built upon openness, transparency and trust.  I use it for all manner of things, one of which is product and service research.  I use certain sites and forums and infer quality, usefulness, appropriateness from those sites, some of which include blogs.  In my opinion – if you are being paid (cash or kind) to review or push a product it will colour your judgement.  If I know that the source from which I am reading is not independent I can take that into consideration, not necessarily discount it, but at least I know the blogger’s judgement is tainted somewhat.

I have seen all sorts of criticisms about this being “Big Brotherly” and unconstitutional.  Whilst I am not an expert on American law I do have a moral backbone, deceiving your readership is amoral, taking covert back-handers or “bribes” is amoral.  Just rectify the situation by stating that you have received a gift from the company’s marketing department.  Freedom of the press has nothing to do with being bought out by corporate America.  We the people, can then make our judgements on the unconstitutional nature – or in the case of being British just the ethics.

The opinions against from my reading so far, appear to evolve around disclosure in 140 characters on Twitter, my answer would be that on your Twitter page link to your blog or website and disclose on there – pragmatic.  Also, that it doesn’t cover off false advertising  claims and other media endorsements such as celebrity endorsements on TV – but I belive it does.  But if it doesn’t, campaign for that to be included – not against it; strive for change for the better and not reactionary nay-saying.  The internet is ours, indeed the media is now ours too – we need to make things better moving forwards not stamp our feet because we don’t like the rules.

For reference to the scale of the issue:

“The Word of Mouth Marketing Association, an industry group for social and viral marketing specialists, says $1.35bn was spent on social media marketing in 2007, and that will reach $3.7bn by 2011” – source The Guardian http://bit.ly/dnCrY

Dan Gillmores blog referring to the scale of the problem from the blogger’s point of view, http://bit.ly/3eIT8f

What is virtualisation?

SharingVirtualisation is one of those IT hot topics which encompasses a wide variety of meanings. But here we will talk about server virtualisation.

Server virtualisation involves making two or more “logical” servers on one physical server. That is, we have one “box” with one processor (though more are possible and will make things run better), one set of memory and one set of hard disks — but onto that, we build multiple instances of servers for various uses. Each of these servers is totally independent of the other and exists only in software — they are of course linked by the shared hardware. Each has its own name and network address, and can be rebooted without affecting the others on the same box.

Typically, these servers could be used for any function, but the specifications of the server must grow in accordance with their use. For example, a box with virtual servers which perform the functions of active directory, DNS, a small web server and printing will need fewer processors, memory and disks than one with a couple of databases running the corporate intranet and document management functions.

So what’s it for? If space and budgets are tight, it is useful to make the best use of hardware. Practices tend to deploy single applications to single servers. In the first example above, I would require four actual servers, but in the virtual world, only one. The magic lies in the fact that most servers run at around 5-10% capacity most of the time.

Virtualisation makes best use of this by consolidating many servers into one — some typical ratios are 10:1 and 15:1. This could save you a lot of time and money.

Virtualisation is also very quick if you need to roll out new servers with new applications or websites. Traditionally, you might have bought a new server, waited for delivery, constructed it and racked it into the cabinet, put Windows on and patched it. With virtualisation, you can simply build a new virtual server on an existing physical server and be up and running in hours rather than days or weeks.

Downsides? It is important not to overload the physical server with too many virtual servers and swamp its resources. The physical server you use also needs some redundant components — hard disks, power supplies, fans.

If you need to power down the box to make a change to one of these items, you will now be affecting many servers and functions rather than just one.

Cost, resource efficiency and speed of provisioning are the key drivers, although the price you might pay is having all your eggs in the same basket.