While I really enjoy making AR content with Unity, I realise that its real-life applications are few and far between. This could be set to change with Vuforia beta 4.0, which introduces Object Recognition.
In short, this means we are no longer bound by flat planes with markers on them, such as business cards, posters, boxes, and menus. Vuforia now allows us to use a physical product as a marker, which is very, very exciting.
A great example is toys, and Vuforia uses an augmented toy car in their promotional video:
As soon as I was notified about the release, I had to take a look. Although it's beta software, it works well. My first test of the tech was with a toy car, which was a bit boring. Time for something a bit more interesting, and relevant to my interests. Since I'm obsessed with Iron Man, I thought I'd try using an Arc Reactor prop as a marker.
First of all, place the object to track on the special scanning marker, and use the scanning App to build up a model that Vuforia can track.
Then send the tracking data to yourself, and upload to the Object Tracking manager. Download the Unity package, import into your project, then just add whatever you want to it.
In this case, I had some assets that I thought might work well with it. So here we go, an Arc Reactor with Iron Man flying above it, with a few other elements.
It works! It's remarkably robust too, considering I'm using quite a symmetrical marker. I'll see if I can capture a video of it when I have some time, as it's much more impressive than a boring static screenshot.
In all, this took me around an hour. About half of that was waiting for the assets to download. Once again, basic AR is easy.. it's all the functionality that's added on top that take time!
I wish I had an accurate 3D model of the Arc Reactor, as it could be made a lot more interesting augmenting parts of the reactor (see the car bonnet in the Vuforia video above).
This tech could have great applications for use with physical objects, including and also far beyond toys. I'm very excited about what we can make with this, it could have huge uses in training, education, marketing, and advertising... anything that involves a physical product that doesn't deform.
One thing I'm interested in is how much they're going to charge for this. No details are released yet. It should be fine for prototypes for clients, but anything 'out in the wild' is unlikely to be completely free.
I'll post more experiments with Vuforia Object Recognition in the coming weeks.
If you want any more info on this, use the contact form and give me a shout.