Reality Check: Monday

According to my perception, Monday has arrived as anticipated but why is my mind still in another space? I often experience that dis-connect and I’m almost sure that I’m not just the only one with this distorted sense of reality, if even we can call it that. And here’s the million dollar question of this post:

What makes my reality any more real than yours, than anyone else’s, including the homeless man who has become a permanent fixture at the corner of the Goethe University Library Entrance on Bockenheimer Landstrasse?

I can easily refer to the man as being homeless simply because, according to me, he does not have what society defines as a “home”. You know, the four walls, the responsibility of giving money away to the instilled concepts of rent and mortgage and a living room with a coffee table where one can put up their feet to watch TV (that kind of a home, IKEA or other). Note that this is not my definition of a physical home. I’m just taking the usual standard description and not the “home is where the heart is” take. I can easily place the “homeless” label on the man but in fact, that could very well be his “home” and I am the one that’s the ignoramus. Fact is, it’s a perception thing.

Interestingly enough, minds have come up with ways in which to measure reality. I personally am not aware of such tools but I like asserting statements such as the one just asserted, just because I can. My basis for this is because I believe this is true and even if it isn’t true, then it will be true in a matter of nanoseconds, because really, what is time, when factored into the creative inventions of man? Stay with me here ….

So it’s Monday according to my perceptions and my being is still experiencing the effects of a weekend in Berlin. No, that that kind of weekend. An augmented reality kind of weekend. No, really, I was in Berlin, not in Amsterdam.

For those in the AR Niche, augmented reality events would appear as no big deal but the First European Augmented Reality Business Conference was indeed a very big deal. As a matter of fact, any AR event or meetup will always be a big deal and here’s just a few reasons why:

1. When people get together to discuss, share and learn about developments that they are passionate about, small magical moments take place and eventually, it benefits others exponentially.
2. The numbers of serious minded people who delve into AR, independently and collectively, push the edge of the limits of AR development and ultimately take society to a whole other level of experiencing and using their physical space.
3. There’ll never be enough events, or meetups on AR. The more opportunities there are for these likeminded people to mashup their ideas with others, the better it is for the community as a whole.
4. These events and meetups create more awareness within mainstream – who will eventually benefit from AR applications anyway, thus prepping the brainwork acceptance for AR integration into their daily lives (Understand that this is still quite a hill to go over but every step forward is definitely one more step further from where we were before).
5. Our reality has always been augmented from DAY ONE. At least now, platforms exist for the intelligent and responsible approach to effective, ethical and valuable uses of AR.

This First European Augmented Reality Business Conference took place in Berlin last Friday April 23, 2010. The event was conceptualized by two courageous men, Dan Romescu and Willi Schroll who followed their vision of creating a tangible reality, whose statement appeared to be Augmented Reality is happening now. The event was conceived in about 8 weeks and thanks to entities like Sabine Gebert (TonkaPR), the gracious sponsors Ericsson and madvertise and partners like Metaio, TIC-MOBILE, Smaato, Fraunhofer, Mobile Monday – just to name a few, the event would not have been a great success. Special mention should also go to the beautiful, intellectually provocative Kwela Hermanns and James Cameron (yes, James Cameron is also beautiful and intellectually provocative) who were great moderators and hosts.

The fact is, there were so many presentations that I wanted to see but the reality was, I could only be at one place physically at one time. Speaking of being in one place, due to the volcanic eruptions in Iceland, keynote speaker Robert Rice was unable to fly to Berlin but that didn’t stop anything. Thanks to AUREA, Robert’s presence was live-streamed into the large conference room and all gained value from his wise words.

There were three tracks that one could follow (Business, Production and Technology). Many did what I did, hopped from one track to the other. Because I wasn’t able to see everything I obviously missed out on other interesting presentations. One presentation that I was glad I sat in on was Gabriel Shalom‘s AR Aura Recognition (AUREC). His presentation is a must watch. The video is embedded below.

AR Aura Recognition from KS12 on Vimeo.

In his presentation, Gabriel discussed reasons as to why the words “Augmented” and “Reality” did not really capture nor embody the jist of the applications and concepts that AR technology ultimately brings forth. I agreed. Instead, Gabriel leaves his audience pondering on two words, “Aura” and “Recognition”. He also explained the challenges in developing applications that focused and/or relied on graphical (visual) markers as opposed to audio.

Gabriel and partner Patrizia Kommerell both founded the creative studio, KS12. The two are also responsible for the wonderfully collaborative project, Postcards from Berlin.

Tobias Kamman did an amazing job of recollecting the event in a structured and timeline sort of way. You can find out more information on other interesting topics from Tobias’ wrap-up. You can also get a feel for the content of the event by looking at the list of speakers that were there, either in person physically or via livestream.

I must say, that I agree with Tobias when he mentioned the two presentations on Gbanga done by Matthias Sala and the one by Gabriel Yoran on aka-aki. Both platforms enable an augmented reality type of MMOPG/MMORPG that anyone can play from anywhere, as long as they had a wifi connected mobile device.
Gbanga recently released a game called Gbanga Famiglia. It takes Zynga‘s Mafia Wars out of the browser and into the streets. Real life streets. You can view the trailer below.

all actual life is encounter” – martin buber, philosopher

“aka-aki is all about the people who really surround you in your everyday life. aka-aki shows you pictures, common friends and interests of the people nearby. instantly on your mobile phone! now you can discover new and interesting people everywhere.” Gabriel Yoran showed a really good video that allowed you to see aka-aki’s value by actually showing you what life would be like without aka-aki. I thought the video was brilliant and the message was certainly clear. You can watch the video below.

Indeed, these two platforms allow mainstream to get a general view of just what augmented reality applications can bring into their lives. Not just for gaming but for serious gaming application (interactive and entertaining education), as well as proximity based services and messaging from preferred brands.

The last presentation I sat in on was by Ronan “zero” Schwarz – ICU. It kind of made me chuckle inside, as it certainly brought back memories of my past life (pre-Germany) as a nurse. But simply put, ICU was exactly just that. “I see you”. Ronan talked about his current project on face recognition using Samsung’s Bada and their build-in camera api. He mentioned in the beginning of his talk that the presentation would not be “technology intense” by developer standards by for a non-developer such as I, I found it intense enough. One thing to note was Ronan’s honesty when answering developer intense questions from his peers. There was no “ego” involved and if someone asked something that he did not know or had not thought of pursuing, he simply stated that he either did not know or did not think about a certain direction. I appreciated this a lot. It made him appear most authentic and real. It made the session so much more open and relaxed because it was no longer Ronan presenting the ICU application but the developers in the room, being involved in moving the project forward with their input.

Even in a high-tech, off the wall topic such as augmented reality, one can certainly find proof that these technologists, however far off into the future their vision may seem, most are quite grounded in the real. In fact, everyone was very open, engaging and willing to share their views with others. I look forward to the next Augmented Reality Conference. Maybe next time, I’ll find a way to clone myself so that I can be everywhere at once.

So, what was my reason for attending this conference? Simple. I was scouting around for projects that involved augmented reality on android.

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