Silence is Golden

Following the recent NSA incidents made me read a bit about secure internet communications and alternative networks to the world wide web. Stumbling upon a few mesh projects and brushing up on my trivial knowledge about cryptography made me excited about entering what could be the beginning of the end of the internet as we know it but I’ll leave that for another post.

What I want to talk about is the reaction we all or most of us had when we read the news. People are seemingly more scared and more aware about their internet privacy and took to the streets against their own governments.

Looking back on the events I was surprised at how outraged people were by  their governments “listening” . Surprised because since the birth of the internet intrusions have been a big problem.

Latest with Captain Zap’s hack on AT&T in 1981 it was clear that networks had to be secured from external intrusions the so called “hackers”. But intercepting communications didn’t just start 30 years ago, communication interception has been present ever since… well ever since a human being was able to communicate. If encrypted writings dating back 1900BC and codes have been cracked ever since, does it leave any hope for others not to put their nose where it does not belong?

Giving that humans had almost 4000 years experience in trying to know what the other is saying and trying to hide your thoughts it does not surprise me at all that there is basically no privacy on the internet, or telephone lines, or simple mail. Someone somewhere will always want to know what you are up to, might it be your grandmother, a bored hacker or your beloved big brother.

My guess is the people were shocked that the listener was this time someone they were supposed to trust. The government has now stepped into the shoes of the hacker, the person they have always warned us from but we all should have seen this coming 4000 years ago. If you don’t want someone to listen to what you are saying, then don’t say it.


Predator: Intelligent Camera

Earlier this year PhD student Zdenek Kalal came up with an algorithm that can virtually track any object in a video feed. This can be used in a huge variety of applications but I think the video Zdenek prepared can explain things better to you. Predator might change a lot, looking back on one of my earlier posts you may get some ideas.

If you want to know more about the project visit Zdenek’s page

Web apps a la Minority report?

Yes, I know, I have been lazy again with blogging. It was been a turbulent two months and I didn’t have much time. Anyhow, let’s go on. My past blog posts were all about AR, current and future developments with some examples. I didn’t get to play with it yet but something else popped up on my to do list.

While I was looking around for AR examples done with Flash and working with Papervision3D I had this idea… what if I could detect the motion of my hands through the web cam to move objects around in my Papervision3D application?

At first I thought it might be impossible to achieve with Flash but I still googled: flash motion detection. Woop I came across numerous post and most of the pointing me to two crazy guys Ohtsuka Masakazu and Mario Klingemann. Now Ohtsuka was crazy enough to port parts of OpenCV into ActionScript3 (the project is code named Marilena) and Mario improved parts of that port for performance, which enables Flash developers to perform facial recognition on still images and web cam. This technology even found its way into Facebook via an application.

Coming across this blew my mind literally and I started investigating on OpenCV and hand motion recognition which in turn blew my mind (or what was left of it) again, I realized that what I have been thinking is actually possible but yet to be implemented in ActionScript3. The most amazing part is that unlike Minority Report, this approach does not need any special gloves (although it would surely simplify development).

So here are a few videos I have found during my research. I am positive that the user experience on the web will drastically change in the next few years. AR, motion and object dedection, there is a huge amount of possibilities. Imagine a website with computer vision that would respond to your facial expression; try to cheer you up when you’re sad, calm you down when you’re angry and joke with you when you’re happy.

This first video is pretty much the most impressive that I found so far. Big kudos for this kid.

Could body motion recognition the next version of the Wii?

AR with FLARToolKit

Augmented Reality in practiceYesterday I gave you an introduction to AR (Augmented Reality) and what is possible with this technology. Today I want to introduce you to FLARtoolKit. FLARToolKit is an ActionScript 3 port of the open source library ARToolKit with which you can build your own AR applications. With FLARToolKit you can build easily great AR applications using Flash/Flex in combination with you favorite 3D Flash Engine which means that thanks to Saqoosha, a Japanese coder, we can experience beautiful AR in our browsers. View Saqoosha’s new year’s greetings in the video or print out a marker and try it yourself.

In the next few weeks I will try myself on the FLARTToolKit and post some examples on how to build AR applications with Flex and Papervision3D.


On Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality - This might be the near futureRecently I have been researching on AR (Augmented Reality) which is in my opinion currently the most interesting trend in the industry. According to Wikipedia AR is

… a term for a live direct or indirect view of a physical real-world environment whose elements are merged with-, or augmented by virtual computer-generated imagery – creating a mixed reality.

So what does THAT now mean? It is not virtual reality as some might think. Virtual reality is composed purely of computer generated elements whereas AR uses pictures (video feeds) of the real world and superimposes computer generated elements on it.

Some of you might have actually already experienced AR in one way or the other. The first time I got in touch with it was a game on my Nokia phone a few years back (can’t remember which one it was) that used the phone’s camera to build the environment of the game. Upon the camera feed were little 3D viruses generated that I had to shoot and by moving the phone I would move within the game’s environment.

AR has many applications and it will change a gamers experience soon. The guys from NVIDIA already started (with others) to develop a unique gaming experience. Let’s take “ARhrrr!”  for example: This game is a project from Georgia Tech and SCAD-Atlanta. The game is developed for the new Tegra by NVIDIA and uses the Tegra’s camera to build a gaming environment on a printed city map. In this city you, the player, have to protect citizens from zombies. The device represents a helicopter in the gaming environment and you can even use real-life Skittles as ammunition. I think it is a bit hard to explain the game itself so here’s a demo video of it:

But the use of AR is not limited to games only. It can be used in many different ways. One company working a lot with AR is Total-Immersion and has lots and lots of examples of use including digital marketing, publishing and education.

One of my favorite marketing applications using AR is “Living Sasquatch“. Many of you may know the advertisements “Messin with Sasquatch” and with Living Sasquatch you can make your own little video with Sasquatch in your own room. All you need is a webcam a printer and you’re good to go. Try it out.

In the future I think that AR will be present everywhere. Scientists are currently researching on digital contact lenses that can show you your vital signs directly in your sight. Though it will take a few years until a first prototype is ready, this idea alone brought up many other applications such as integrations with your phone or pocket PC or the like. Furthermore we can expect at least glasses with AR capabilities much earlier than the contact lenses, as the application of AR on glasses is much easier than on lenses. I myself will probably come up soon with my own little test applications and I already have several ideas how to use this wonderful technology to build interactive websites.