Tish Shute - Augmented Reality, ARWave, and the industry

Tish Shute is a visual effects designer, technologist, and social
ethnographer. She explores the world of augmented reality through her
blog, Ugotrade, featuring interviews
with many of the leading minds in the emerging AR industry. She
recently co-chaired the Augmented Reality Event
in Santa Clara, Ca., recognized as the first major augmented
reality conference.

I recently asked her some questions about her background and interests
in AR, the ARE2010 event, the Google Wave Federation protocol, and the
possible future of augmented reality...

Would you tell us a bit about your background? How did you
become so interested in Augmented Reality?

My interest in augmented reality began with doing visual effects for
film and television. We used robotically controlled cameras, and
models, to create augmentations for movies with multi-pass photography
back then. There are several key people involved in the emerging
industry of augmented reality today that have a background in special
effects, flight simulation, theme park rides, and virtual reality.
This work is part of the family of technologies that includes
augmented reality and virtual reality. But Bruce Sterling nails it
when he says,"VR is the gothic sister of AR."

I have a lot of enthusiasm for the young AR industry, partly, because,
I feel we have shrugged off virtual reality's fatal flaw - all that
over the top expensive equipment we had to flog with it.
My current interest is in social augmented experiences. This not a
vision of a AR that requires AR goggles. Goggles may actually detract
from the social augmented experience, by isolating the user. In his keynote at ARE2010, Bruce pointed out, "if you get the head
mounted goggles, your gothic sister, virtual reality, is going to come
out of her coffin."

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ARE2010 co-chair of are2010, Ori Inbar, CEO of Ogmento

Your blog, Ugotrade,
has been a huge resource for AR and has really helped promote the
larger community of developers and innovators. Recently you co-founded and
produced the ARE2010 conference in Santa Clara, Ca. What were the
motivations behind this event? Do you feel it was successful?

Ugotrade expresses my interest in ethnography and participant
observation as cool ways to follow the advice of Alan Kay, that "the
best way to predict the future is to invent it." My most recent interview is with Bruce
Sterling on his experience at Augmented Reality Event

There are a lot of interesting intersections to explore in what Bruce
calls, the
"glocal" atmosphere of emerging technologies
today. The AR
industry is exemplary of the "glocal," as Bruce points out, with both
a strong global community, unusual for such a young industry, and,
true to its hyperlocal nature, distinctive local flavors - "Augmented
Dutch Reality," "Augmented Japanese Reality," and so forth.

I co-founded and produced the ARE2010 conference in Santa Clara, Ca.
because the speed with which an augmented reality industry emerged
last year convinced me that this was a conversation that could be writ
large in a trade conference. Before the event, many people thought
it too early for a large conference. But I think anyone who was there
will tell you it was a great success. AR start ups from around the
globe, brimming with a business savvy and AR hipster style, mingled
with innovators and thinkers of the stature of Bruce Sterling, "the prophet of AR," "videogame god" Will Wright, the brilliant "Gamepocalypse" visionary Jesse Schell, and 3D mapping genius Blaise Aguera Y Arcas. Bruce Sterling was omnipresent, hanging out with
Rudy Rucker. It was interesting to hear AR artists asking Bruce what
AR means for artistic practice. Will Wright could be found hacking the
parrot AR drone in the hallways. And with over 400 minds coming
together to figure out how AR will change the way we communicate,
isn't that pretty much as good as it gets for an emerging tech

I think the success of are2010 tells you we are in new era for start
up culture, one which has moved out from garages in Sillcon Valley and
Silicon Alley into a global internet garage. But the global AR
community is still eager to meet and share a maximum bandwidth
experience. As Bruce noted, when we talked at length after the event,
"It was interesting to see so many people from so many different
nations in such a collegial atmosphere."

The AR community makes for a fun conference because it is very
diverse. The gang was all there; mobile developers, artists, game
developers, "geowankers", VRML fanatics, social network gurus, UX
experts, mobile advert people, cloud computing and hardcore gis experts,
computer vision ubergeeks, urban planners. ARE2010 had a whiff of the
euphoria of internet bubbles of times past. There were "meetings"
everywhere, a big fat check from Qualcomm for the best AR start up,
and Hollywood execs were hovering in the wings.

The American idol style commentary from Bruce Sterling, Jesse Schell,
and Mark Billinghurst during the Auggies - the competition for the
best AR demo, is a primer for anyone interested in making their mark
with an AR app. It is also great entertainment - a critique, in the
form of humorous and brilliant repartee.

Who are the most advanced and invested players?

Well first, hats off to Qualcomm -
our presenting sponsor for are2010. We couldn't have done it without
them. Qualcomm obviously seem to have commercialization plans for
their AR technology, and to be actively scouting and acquiring talent,
and ways to deliver new AR experiences. Big players - Apple, Google,
Microsoft, Nokia will make many important moves in the next year which
could change the game for the creative young start ups. Google, I
think, has the most pieces in hand for making AR a mainstream
phenomena. That is, if they can get over what Bruce calls the
"spiders mating" problem and put it all together. Also, the iphone
4.0 will offer some interesting opportunities for AR developers. But,
I think, AR innovation will continue to come from the edges.
Although, AR games could soon become so ubiquitous we don't bother to
call them AR games anymore.

How do you see the Google Wave federation model as a platform for
augmented reality? What's the status of your research in this area?

Wave Federation Protocol is
very interesting as it presents the first possibility for an open,
federated standard, and a real time communications platform for
Augmented Reality. But, typically, I have to expend quite a few words
explaining that the ARWave, while built
on Wave protocol, does NOT use the Google Wave web user interface (see
my ARWave
slide presentation at are2010

ARWave has the potential to unleash the power of social augmented
experiences and enable augmented reality game development in a big
way. Also, very simply, it will allow anyone to attach data to their
world view, and share it with others. Things will start getting really
interesting when anyone can create AR content, an AR browser/client,
or even set up one's own server. An open federated platform for AR,
where people can share data and one login, will be a big step forward.
I can't wait to see AR experiences move out of walled gardens!

The next step for ARWave is to create an API so browsers like Layar can use the platform for real
time mobile social communications, at least. I mention Layar, in
particular, because Layar co-founder, Maarten Lens-Fitzgerald, told me
at are2010 that exploring ARWave integration is on their to do list.
But ARWave will support as many browsers and data formats as
possible. The new web standards based AR mobile architecture from
Georgia Tech, Kharma, and powerful
open source tools like ARToolworks are high
on our list.

An open communications framework is vital for open AR. A group from
ARE2010 is exploring how ARWave could be used as a standard for future
AR eyewear. Personally, I am very interested in linking ARWave with
eGov and open data efforts. AR is a great interface to the high
concentration of people and information in cities, and some really
cool AR demos could play a key role in encouraging government to open
up data. Thomas Wrobel, who
has led the development charge on ARWave, is an ARG game designer. I
know he can't wait to get some AR Wave clients/browsers integrated to
show off the potential of the ARWave platform.

In your mind, what are some of the most interesting and compelling
possibilities of AR? Is there a dark side to AR?

I think, without doubt, social augmented experiences will underpin the
most interesting and compelling possibilities of AR, and not not just
in mobile augmented reality, but with marker based and projection AR.
I would also like to see people continue to come up with unusual and
quirky forms of AR like "."

Bruce debunks many of the current dire warnings about the dark side AR
our conversation here
- including the interpretation of the
famous Roger Corman horror film, "X: the Man with the X-ray Eyes,"
that Jesse Schell so brilliantly presented at are2010. I think most
of our current "dark side" imaginings for AR may miss the point, as we
are so early on in our understanding of the potential and diversity of
AR experiences.

What do you think the augmented future will look like in 10

Well as I try to follow Alan Kay's advice to invent rather than
predict the future, I may wriggle out of this question. My immediate
goal is to focus on lowering the barriers of entry to creating AR
experiences. I think AR will be diverse and omnipresent long before
we are through with the twentyteens, and blended realities will be the
norm before the end of the next decade. But, as I mentioned at the
end of my
Humanity + interview
, reading Vernor Vinge, Bruce Sterling, Rudy
Rucker, William Gibson, Charles Stross, Neal Stephenson, Roger
Zelazny, Jane Lindskold, Tad Williams, Larry Niven, Steven Barnes, and
watching the great Japanese anime Dennō Coil (電脳コイル) will tell you much more
about what to expect in 2020 than I.

[See also the article by IFTF's Mike Liebhold at Niemen Reports on Digital
Immersion: Augmenting Places With Stories And Information

Images from chcameron's Flickr stream