This is an AR artwork that allows the user to control a flow of ribbons and particles on screen; watch it below.

Virtual Ribbons from James Alliban on Vimeo.

AR allows you to mix video, animation, 3D, and motion graphics – potentially all unlocked through a print product.

“Any video or 2D animation can be mapped onto a 3D object,” says Alliban. “A flat plane works best, but you could use any 3D shape. Another alternative is to analyse the video and create something with the data, like I did with my AR business-card application. If you’re working with Flash, it’s generally best to use low dimensions and quality when preparing any video.”

At the moment, AR is mostly being used as eye candy. However Alliban points out that AR could be great for education. “There are also many functional applications around, particularly for shopping online, such as the Ray Bans app [bit.ly/7iNwWf] by FittingBox,” he adds.

This example shows the best scenario for the technology – when there is no 2D barcode or other fiducial marker involved but the software is tracking colour, movement or faces. “I think the most exciting aspect of AR is installation art in which participants can see themselves interacting with layers of computer generated imagery,” says Alliban.

AR hits the newsstands
Magazines such as Popular Science, InStyle, Official Xbox Magazine and others have all exploited 2D barcodes this year, with simple AR graphics and adverts. Offering exclusive interactive content for readers could add value, if done properly, and might lure advertisers back to the print. James Alliban says he anticipates AR may become common among magazines.

“I suspect that most first AR issues will be fairly elaborate but over time will tend to consist of simple AR video templates,” he adds.

But not everyone agrees.

“AR with fiducials is a gimmick, at least currently,” says Firstborn’s Zeh Fernando (firstbornmultimedia.com). “There may be a few applications that are pretty nice, but for most practical purposes, I don’t think it warrants such a focus on the print side of things.”

But the field is changing. Exclusive AR video content was the driver behind US Esquire’s foray into the technology, which saw December’s cover featuring Robert Downey Jr, and two inside features with AR functionality – as well as an AR ad.

Psyop (psyop.tv) designed, shot, and animated all the AR features, then fed these to The Barbarian Group, which programmed them into the AR interface.

Psyop’s Marco Spier says that Esquire wanted to bring parts of the magazine to life. “For the cover, we imagined Robert Downey Jr hosting us through the AR experience. Since the cover had not yet been designed, we referenced older issues and what stood out was the great art direction of the type. We thought it would be cool to have Robert Downey Jr interact with the typography as he talks us through this new technology.”

Psyop needed to develop a number of techniques to overcome the delivery platform’s technical limitations.