Map/Territory: Augmented Reality Without the Phone

Map/Territory from timo on Vimeo.

The world will become our display. As a stopgap we are busily turning our phones into the lens through which we view floating tweets and wikipedia entries. However designers like Timo Arnall are starting to explore how we will interact with an augmented world when we are able to move past the iPhone crutch.

The 30-second video above shows a woman interacting with a map on the ground. She navigates and zooms the plaza-sized subway map with simple hand gestures. Like all good concept pieces it leaves the “how” for a developer to be inspired by and leaves the “what” for us to marvel at. I asked Timo to tell me about Map/Territory and he sent me:


In our research at AHO we recognised a while ago that AR was becoming cheap and implementable enough to make it interesting on a wide scale; seeing the first Android phone late last year with a GPS and compass and Google Street View was a real eye opener, a little window on an alternate representation of the world.

But we don’t yet know enough about the experience of AR to make decisions about how this technology should work in practice. So Map/Territory is just a small experiment to explore the visual and experiential aspects of AR. It doesn’t attempt to replicate a real interface or device, it just plays with layering sets of information in a physical space to see how they look. I’m interested in the ‘big here‘ elements of city living, and although this video explores maps and transport connections, I’m very interested in starting to visualise other kinds of geological, historical, cultural and social data.

Of course it is a video, made using non-real-time compositing tools that are usually used for SFX work, but working with the details and playing with stuff like scale, transparency, transitions and timing gets us some of the way towards making sure that these interfaces are made right in the future.

It was made using PFHoePro which is a piece of match-moving software, of which there are plenty: PFTrack, Syntheyes and Boujou to name a few. At the moment these systems take hours to track the flow of the pixels in a short moving piece of video, and then compute the 3D space from it. We then use this 3D information to map new objects into the space in the video. Using this technology we can reveal the opportunities and constraints of possible mobile AR interfaces running in real-time.

Designers may not have the necessary skills to grapple with the API’s in Layar or the iPhone, but there is a huge role for visualisation within the design of emerging technology. I liked the vision that IDEO created around AR and journalism, they managed to get many ideas across through sketching on photos, quite good enough to create debate about the potentials and concerns for such a system.

Do you have any favorite concept videos that have been passed by? Share them in the comments.

We are working on getting Timo to Where 2.0 2010. I’ll keep you posted.