Argon, the augmented reality web browser, available now on iPhone

Feb 23, 2011 By David Terraso
Blair MacIntyre and his Augmented Environments Lab developed Argon to move the Web into the world. It does so by taking video from the phone’s camera and rendering graphical content on top of the video to provide users with an experience that merges space with cyberspace. Credit: Rob Felt/Georgia Tech

You’re in a bookstore checking out the bestsellers. You scan the book with your iPhone camera and immediately see information floating in the air, provided by the store’s information channel. You add your own book club channel to the view, overlaying additional reviews from friends and other relevant information from shopping sites on the Web.

While skimming the book reviews, you notice a note that looks as if it’s floating in the air on your personal channel, reminding you about a nearby restaurant you’ve been meaning to visit. You buy the book and head to lunch, looking forward to reading a bit over lunch before heading back to work.

No, this isn't you in 20 years --- it's a scenario possible in the very near future thanks to a new technology designed to bring the Web off your hand-held device and into the real world. Developers hope to port Argon to other platforms, such as Android, in the near future.

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“Our goal is to provide a foundation for millions of Web developers to begin writing applications so they can provide users with new experiences that are unique to the world of AR,” said Blair MacIntyre, KHARMA project director and associate professor in the School of Interactive Computing at Georgia Tech. “Basically, we want to move the Web into the world.”

The Argon mobile augmented reality browser was developed with funding support from Alcatel-Lucent through its University Innovations Program.

"Alcatel-Lucent is actively involved in supporting open standards across mobile and fixed devices to enable consumers and business users to enjoy rich communication anywhere, anytime and over any device. Our participation as a project sponsor in Georgia Tech's development of the world’s first open standards-based mobile augmented reality browser is an example of that," said Marc Goodman, director of Alcatel-Lucent's University Innovations Program.

Augmented reality allows people to view the physical world with computer media overlaid on top of it. The approach is often suggested as a way of adding information to the world and improving the way that people can interact with that information, but can also be used for games, art or any imaginable application where the media content relates to nearby people, places or things.

Argon marks the first significant step in marrying the power of the Internet to the world of . Until now, most AR applications had to be developed and deployed on the user’s mobile device, limiting the reach of the technology. Commercial attempts at creating more general AR browser platforms have offered limited content and interaction options.

What makes Argon different from standard mobile Internet browsers is its ability to put content out into the world. Argon takes video from the phone’s camera and renders graphical content on top of it. With this initial release, any content that can be displayed in the ’s Mobile Safari can be pushed out into the world on virtual billboards. Other content can be created using forms and Javascript. Future releases will also include support for a range of 3D content.

“Basically, there are lots of little programs that provide the ability to use AR to put some information out in the world around you. Some, like these early browsers, also allow users to contribute content, but none allow the full range of dynamic content, control and interactivity of the Web, with everything hosted on your own servers,” said MacIntyre.

By building on top of open Web technologies and standards, the KHARMA development platform opens the door to AR applications with a full range of possible interactivity, collaboration, Web mashups and connections to cloud services that users and developers have come to rely on.

For example, rather than just displaying the locations of businesses or other nearby places, you can customize the content delivery as you desire. When you use the browser to view the channel for a theater, the channel might display the movie times, allow you to view previews of the films, or create in-browser games and interactive experiences tied to the movies you choose. Those games might be collaborative with other nearby viewers, or with people at another theater across town or across the country. The possibilities are endless.

“If you look at the history of any media, such as film or the Web, initially the content creators are the same people who created the technology,” said MacIntyre. “But at some point that begins to change, and tools come along that allow many people to begin to work with the technology. When that happens, we begin to discover what the medium is truly about. With the KHARMA specifications, and the Argon browser, we want to put AR into the hands of the millions of people who know how to create websites, and hopefully take a step toward understanding the potential of AR.”

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User comments : 10

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sstritt
1 / 5 (2) Feb 23, 2011
Propaganda ieftina cu scopul de a consuma servicii inutile.

After a quick sidetrip to google translate, I agree completely, even if it is my Alma Mater.
trekgeek1
5 / 5 (1) Feb 23, 2011
Cheap propaganda in order to consume unnecessary services.
- Finitesolutions (Google translated)

Just thought I'd translate it so you didn't have to wonder.
Beard
5 / 5 (1) Feb 23, 2011
Mainframe -> PC -> Laptop -> Smartphone -> ????

I'll bet it's going to be an augmented reality visor or goggles.
Thadieus
not rated yet Feb 23, 2011
"aganda ieftina cu scopul de a consuma servicii inutile."
As Hulk Hogan says 'Amen Brother"
rynox
2 / 5 (1) Feb 23, 2011
I'm going to go out on a limb and say this technology will probably not go anywhere.
soulman
5 / 5 (2) Feb 23, 2011
Cheap propaganda in order to consume unnecessary services.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say this technology will probably not go anywhere.

You're both very wrong. Okay, perhaps not THIS exact product will succeed, although I think it has a very good chance of doing so.

While the video was disappointing, augmented reality will be HUGE. It's the perfect mobile application, particularly when you find yourself in an unfamiliar environment or country. Even close to home, it would be great to discover what's going on around you in terms of store specials, hours shopping mall layout, restaurants and menus, movies playing, arts exhibitions, basically anything you can point your phone camera at.

All that needs to happen is improved GPS location/compass, GPU power to orient graphics over the environment in real time and an underlying software framework to tie it all together. It's coming, and it will be BIG!
toyo
5 / 5 (1) Feb 24, 2011
I agree with soulman, above. It will be big because it already is.
In New York (I'm from Sydney) I found it invaluable to have an iPad tell me about local restaurants, which bus/train to take to get to my destination, which museums were close and what opening hours were...
This should be (and is, for iPhone users) available to all mobile phone users. All it takes is normal expansion of current services to the mobile net.
Nothing out of the ordinary.

Rich content is a reality, it just needs some platform to bring together all those different apps (that you have to run now) under the one umbrella.
It's coming.
GuruShabu
1 / 5 (2) Feb 24, 2011
I am not sure. I've seen the article went to Apple Store and downloaded the app.
Then I tried to use it...could not see any "augmented"reality nor even it help me in anyway...perhaps the idea might be good but the interface is still unfriendly in all aspects.
dankgoat
not rated yet Feb 24, 2011
It isn't a web browser and I have no idea how to use it...fail
Digi
5 / 5 (2) Feb 24, 2011
It isn't a web browser and I have no idea how to use it...fail

Nice attitude. It reminds me of amazon reviews where people rate products 'zero' because they took so long to arrive. This technology is still relatively young, it may be twitchy and require some 'thought' but the concept is a good one.