Thursday, September 24, 2009

Viewing Holographic 3D Images on Your Computer

Click on the heading above to see an amazing application that presents a holographic 3D image that you can rotate/tilt, etc. right on your home or office computer. There are a few easy steps to get it set up but I guarantee it is worth it.

This effect is created using a variety of free software programs like ARToolKit. ARToolKit is a software library for building Augmented Reality (AR) applications. These are applications that involve the overlay of virtual imagery on the real world.

For example, in the image to the left a three-dimensional virtual character appears standing on a real card. It can be seen by the user in the head set display they are wearing. When the user moves the card, the virtual character moves with it and appears attached to the real object.

You can get this same effect on your computer right now without any special glasses by clicking on the heading above. With a few minutes of set-up time you can see the image (right) projected in front of you and manipulate it yourself. When you move, the image moves.

And not only that, but you can create your own as well with free software. is a website that contains a link to the ARToolKit software, projects that have used ARToolKit, sample ARToolKit applications, a discussion group and full documentation. All the information needed to be able to easily develop AR applications with ARToolKit can be found there.

One of the key difficulties in developing Augmented Reality applications is the problem of tracking the users viewpoint. In order to know from what viewpoint to draw the virtual imagery, the application needs to know where the user is looking in the real world. ARToolKit uses computer vision algorithms to solve this problem. The ARToolKit video tracking libraries calculate the real camera position and orientation relative to physical markers in real time. This enables the easy development of a wide range of Augmented Reality applications.

ARToolKit was originally developed by Dr. Hirokazu Kato, and its ongoing development is being supported by the Human Interface Technology Laboratory (HIT Lab) at the University of Washington, HIT Lab NZ at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand, and ARToolworks, Inc, Seattle.

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