“Where normally we might be able to let dozens of fancy computers work on generating a few seconds of imagery for several days, in the case of Esquire it all needed to be rendered in realtime on any old computer,” explains technical director Damon Ciarelli. “In many cases, we needed to make a couple of dozen simple objects appear to be dense clusters of thousands of elements.”

Passport to more content
Benetton’s in-house creative agency Fabrica (fabrica.it) recently produced an issue of Colors magazine featuring AR. The project’s Flash developer was Julian Koschwitz.

“Just printing a code and displaying a funny 3D graphic on top of it doesn’t really use the technology right,” Koschwitz says. “It’s a working demo. What we did was actually use this technology for combining a photo with a video, and a printed story with a video. The AR codes were just the binding glue of both.”

According to editor Erik Ravello, using AR connects the web and the print content in a smart and easy-to-use way. “Not only is video now playing inside the magazine,” he says. “But the magazine becomes a key for exclusive content without building a hard-to-access web platform.”

According to the Fabrica team, key print design decisions must also taken when working like this.

“The aesthetics of the codes which were placed inside the magazine were used as a visual language throughout the whole magazine,” says Ravello. “Instead of just placing them they became part of the layout and corresponded with photos and typography.”

Koschwitz stresses that interactivity is the key. “The page becomes a device to control content, flip through chapters or move in 3D space,” he says. “There is an endless range of possibilities that just need to be combined with the right content.”

AR goes mobile

As smartphones become more sophisticated, features such as optical sensors, GPS and accelerometers are ensuring that AR for mobiles represents a growing opportunity for creative studios.

“There are some great applications created for the iPhone and [Google’s] Android platforms that work very well in showing how AR has a future after the whole webcam fad is over,” says Zeh Fernando of Firstborn.

Mobile AR apps are more likely to focus on geolocation than on image tracking, he adds. As sensors become more sophisticated, so will the AR apps available.

The Flash developer community will also be able to get a handle on the mobile AR market soon. Previewed at the Adobe Max conference in October, Flash Professional CS5 and Flash Player 10.1 will allow developers to develop and run Flash-based AR apps on most new mobiles – but the iPhone is another problem.

Adobe’s beta of Flash Professional CS5 will allow developers to develop tools in ActionScript 3 and compile them as native iPhone apps. According to Adobe (labs.adobe.com), the software will grant access to AR-useful iPhone UI elements such as multitouch, screen orientation, accelerometer and geo-location, but developer access to the iPhone’s live video feed is currently forbidden. Without this, development of live augmented reality video on Apple’s mobile device will be stymied.