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What is markerless Augmented Reality? | Augmented Reality Bites

Augmented Reality is transitioning to markerless experiences, defying the restrictions of stationary images and traditional AR tracking images. Current implementations of markerless AR (often referred to as ‘dead reckoning’) use sensors in devices to accurately detect the real-world environment and allow users to place virtual objects in that environment.

Markerless AR basics: Project Tango and Smart Terrain

Google recently released a video of their “Project Tango” device which uses a camera to scan the environment in real-time, using the data to spawn a virtual environment around the user, occluding objects like furniture, with a virtual layer.

Qualcomm is also working on a markerless AR SDK. Called “Smart Terrain,” it works much like Project Tango in that it uses a 3D camera to scan and calculate the size of objects and then allows you to accurately overlay them with virtual objects.

This shift in AR user experience opens up endless possibilities for both commercial and entertainment applications. Combining this type of AR with something like Google Glass opens up even more opportunities for incredibly immersive experiences. Here are three key areas that will see significant impact from the new level of experiential immersion that markerless tracking enables.

1) Gaming and entertainment

Imagine walking into a room, scanning it with your mobile device, and then using the information to spawn an entire game world around you. A wearable device such as Google Glass could be used to view the world and even as a weapon in a game, creating one of the most immersive gaming experiences imaginable. Without the need for a television, VR headset, or even a standard method of control, markerless AR enables gaming anywhere by simply transforming a real environment into a game world. This is just the beginning of how this kind of technology could change the gaming world.

2) Commercial product visualization

Have you ever wanted to see how that new appliance might look in your kitchen? Or wondered whether you had room for said appliance? Markerless AR will make it possible to grab a mobile device, scan a real world environment such as a kitchen and virtually place a product there to see how it would look and fit. It will soon be possible to “furnish” an entire room virtually, trading out styles of cabinets, flooring and appliances to see how they work before buying. This type of markerless AR will allow consumers to have total freedom to shop in their own real environments without the restrictions of printable image targets.

3) Advertising

Imagine walking down the street, holding up a device and seeing an entire virtual layer themed after a movie, pro sports team or video game. The possibilities with this kind of advertising will become even greater when wearables such as Google Glass become  more common. Users could freely cycle between multiple virtual layers and experiences in their real world environment.

The combination of markerless AR with broad acceptance of wearables will make AR an everyday technology. This combination gives users the freedom to move around and use an experience without being fear of dropping the virtual layer when an image target falls out of sight.

More Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality resources

Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality are constantly changing and there is much to learn. Here is a supplemental list of VR/AR resources for you to enjoy and share.

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