I’m just back from the Fourth International AR Standards Meeting that took place in Basel, Switzerland and trying hard to collect my thoughts after two days of intense and stimulating discussion. Apart from anything else, it was a great opportunity to finally meet some people I’ve known from email and discussion boards on “the left hand side of the reality-virtuality continuum“.
Christine Perry, the driving spirit, inspiration and editor at large of AR Standards Group has done a fantastic job bringing so many stakeholders together representing Standards Organisations such as the OGC, Khronos, Web3d Consortium, W3C, OMA and WHATWG Browser and SDK vendors such as Wikitude, Layar, Opera, ARGON and Qualcomm AR and hardware manufacturers ( Canon, SonyEricsson, NVIDIA) as well as several solution providers such as MOB Labs and mCrumbs – oh and a light sprinkling of academics ( Georgia Tech, Fraunhofer iDG ).
I knew I’d be impressed and slightly awe struck by these highly accomplished people, but what did surprise me was the lack of any serious turf fighting. Instead, there was a real sense of pioneering spirit in the room. Of course everyone had their own story to tell (which just happened to be a story that fitted nicely into their organizational interests), but it really was more about people trying to make some sense of a confusing landscape of technologies and thinking in good faith about what we can do to make it easier. In particular, it seemed clear that the Standards Organizations felt they could separate the problem space fairly cleanly between their specialist area of interest (geospatial, 3d, hardware/firmware, AR content, web etc). The only area where these groups had significant overlap was on sensor APIs, and some actions were taken to link in with the various Working Groups working on sensors to reduce redundancies.
This shared ambition to converge AR standards with generic web browser standards is a recognition that the convergence of hardware, sensors, 3d, computer vision and geo location is a bigger phenomenon than AR browsers or augmented reality. AR is just the first manifestation of this convergence and “anywhere, anytime” access to the virtual world as discussed by Rob Manson on his blog.
To a certain extent, the work we have been discussing here on geo mobile blog, using HTML5 to create web based mapping applications, is a precursor to a much broader sensor enabled web that uses devices such as camera, GPS, compass etc. not just to enable 2d mapping content but all kinds of application that can exploit the sudden happen-chance of millions of people carrying around dozens of sensors, cameras and powerful compute/graphic processors in their pockets.
Coming back from this meeting, I’m feeling pretty upbeat about the prospects for AR and emerging sensor augmented web. Let’s hope we are able to keep the momentum going for the next meeting in Austin.