Combining cartoons with reality

1 min read

Mobile phones will soon be able to integrate 3D animation into live video in real time, using new software created at the University of Oxford’s Department of Engineering Science.

Isis Innovation, Oxford’s technology-transfer company, has licensed the software to augmented-reality firm QderoPateo. The company will integrate the software into mobile-phone applications to provide novel advertising and other services.

PTAM maps the visible environment through a camera and builds detailed 3D images. It recognises objects and scenes by clusters of features that form a digital signature of the location. While the map is being built, the camera viewpoint and angle are calculated so that 3D graphics can be projected into the video stream and appear to belong in the same scene.

The blending of real and virtual worlds is common in films and television, but it is usually achieved by extensive processing of the recorded images or by filming in studios with known objects at fixed locations.

If implemented on smartphones, it is claimed PTAM can supplement sensors such as GPS and digital compasses to improve the accuracy of the positioning and maintain the position when out of range of satellite, 3G and Wi-Fi signals.

With one whimsical phone application, an animated person would appear in the camera view and lead the user down the street towards the restaurant while explaining the menu and making a reservation.

Within the next 10 years, QderoPateo hopes to grow the mobile augmented reality (AR) market from a simple information service to a full-blown AR search-and-gaming engine running on ’Ouidoo’, its next-generation smartphone.

Isis Innovation is seeking other commercial partners looking to develop the software for other useful applications.