Home Flash-based AR Gets High-Quality Markerless Upgrade

Flash-based AR Gets High-Quality Markerless Upgrade

One of the turning points in the evolution of augmented reality (AR) was the porting of the ARToolKit – an open?source software library for building AR experiences – to the widely accessible Adobe Flash platform. The toolkit allowed Flash developers to easily create computer vision AR applications and opened the door to a flood of AR development. These days, brands looking to use AR to market their products have looked to AR vendors for solutions, and now one of the largest – Total Immersion – is now also offering Flash support within its proprietary AR development software.

D’Fusion, the company’s suite of AR development software, has previously been available to develop desktop, Web-based, mobile and public kiosk-based AR applications. With the release of D’Fusion for Adobe Flash, users of the software will now be able to build AR applications for the Web that can run without installing extra plugins beyond Flash.

While Flash-based AR is nothing new, even to other vendors like seac02 and metaio, added support from Total Immersion is significant because it provides large brands with additional robust and secure Flash offerings in the AR market. Earlier solutions, like the FLARToolkit, required the use of very basic markers, such as quick response (QR) codes, for tracking. D’Fusion for Adobe Flash includes Total Immersion’s markerless tracking technology which allows 3D objects to be superimposed on images, not just blocky black and white triggers.

The company’s expansion to the Flash platform is also a big step forward for AR standards – an effort CEO Bruno Uzzan is strongly behind. I spoke with North American GM Greg Davis today about how Flash support fits in with the company’s vision for AR standards. One of the keys to standardizing the AR industry is creating solutions that are at a high level of quality. Davis says Total Immersion has been working with both its European R&D lab and Adobe on its Flash solution for well over a year in order to bring a stable and flexible product to its development partners.

Flash is much more accessible to both consumers and developers, meaning support from a major vendor like Total Immersion could encourage many more brands to use augmented reality. The company has a large network of partner developers that use the D’Fusion software to create hundreds of AR apps each year, and now the massive population of Flash developers can join in on the fun.

The company has a demo of a Web-based AR app built using Flash (see video above), and it runs very smoothly – exceptionally smooth, in fact. The demo invites users to print out a flier of a lunar landscape and hold it infront of their webcam, triggering the appearance of a robotic rover complete with animations and sound. I don’t have a printer, but the application was still able to recognize and track my movements very well even though I used a reflective laptop screen to display the flier.

The company also has fascinating aspirations for the future of Web-based augmented reality – including its use from within mobile Web browsers. As the number of smartphones with front-facing cameras and Flash support increases, developers should be able to launch AR products on the Web that can also be viewed on mobile devices.

Total Immersion North American product marketing and presales manager Jason Smith agreed during a phone discussion today that this is an area the company is looking into with anticipation. Smith says they need to investigate the hardware capabilities of the the current handsets, because the quality of the experience would hinges significantly on the ability to access the graphics processor on the device. He added that he doesn’t see this happening with Flash Lite, but possibly with full versions of Flash coming to Android devices soon.

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