Augmented Reality (AR) Pilot
Importance and vision of AR + Web + Geospatial
Augmented Reality (AR) is helping people enhance their view of the world by displaying data on top of their physical surroundings. Most commonly this comes as digital information, such as nearby facilities or attractions, being overlaid in real-time onto a video feed being captured by a smartphone.
Augmented Reality (AR) content encoded in ARML 2.0 displayed in Wikitude, Layar and Junaio browsers respectively. (Image from Wikitude)
There is a myriad of use cases where seamlessly bringing relevant information to a visual context can improve the way we learn, make processes more efficient, save lives, and avoid accidents. AR has assisted mechanics to make repairs, neurosurgeons during surgery, soldiers to gain insight on enemy locations, and maintenance crews in working with pipes hidden underground.
To make the integration of data and the view of the world as easy as possible, standards need to play a central role. Access to, and interaction with, data, video, and images can only be seamless if services and applications are built on shared models and interfaces. Data following open encodings and available via open interfaces can advance sharing of, and access to, information by today's many different AR devices.
The geospatial standards developed by OGC provide a strong basis for shared data models and interfaces concerning the surrounding physical world and its digital representation. The Web platform, standardized by W3C, is the most widely deployed and interoperable platform for application and services. The web is the prime candidate to deploy ubiquitous AR services and to overlay heterogeneous information onto the physical world.
Incubation of APIs that will provide access to AR headsets, with experimental extensions to AR/MR headset, is ongoing.
In 2018, during Testbed 14, experiments explored the possibilities offered by Augmented Reality in a geospatial context, by integrating information available from urban models (CityGML) within a view of the real world through a mobile device. Clients using ARKit for iOS and Android were developed.
In 2015, OGC adopted the Augmented Reality Markup Language 2.0 Interface Standard (ARML 2.0). It is used by content providers to specify the visual appearance and real world ‘anchors’ of virtual objects in an AR scene. ARML 2.0 also defines an interface for communicating how a user’s input can select, query, and dynamically change the properties of these virtual objects.
AR head-mounted displays have become more popular in recent years. They provide a better user interaction than mobile devices. It allows the user to interact with the surrounding world in 3D, to have a more natural and immersive view of the data, and to better control the device.
AR software libraries and development kits (SDKs) are becoming mainstream additions to mobile operating systems. The arrival of AR tracking dedicated SDKs (ARKit, ARCore) bring new opportunities to AR software developers that the Web needs to provide to be competitive in this space.
It remains unknown if and how the Web can adapt to these new environments. Some recent or upcoming evolutions (Web Assembly, Web GPU) of the Web platform probably have a role to play, but others remain to be identified and experimented with. For example, advancing the work being done by experimental web browsers to expose the features of the current AR SDKs require more hands-on experience with deploying Web-based AR projects at scale.
AR becomes truly magic when one can start ‘browsing’ reality - but this requires constant and adaptive access to live data about the surrounding environment. While the data can be provided using OGC standards and displayed using W3C ones, ensuring the two can be combined in real-time live AR experiences remains to be shown.
ARML 2.0 was developed three years ago, where it was only tested on mobile devices. Testing it with current-gen AR head-mounted devices will help advance the standard to a better state.
An open architecture needs to be advanced to not only allow AR systems to access and merge data, but also for them to be able to send data (e.g. capturing pictures and videos) to a server and to subscribe and get notified of specific events.
W3C and OGC: a Pilot to advance AR standards
W3C and OGC together are looking to run a Pilot in order to advance or propose W3C and OGC standards related to Augmented Reality. Models, interfaces, and an architecture will be advanced to enable seamless integration of ‘real world’, geospatial, and web data.
The Pilot will run as an Initiative of the OGC Innovation Program, co-branded with W3C. The OGC Innovation Program provides a fast-paced setting for geospatial technology users and providers to work collaboratively in an agile development environment to develop, evolve, test, demonstrate and validate standards under marketplace conditions. Such initiatives have proven to:
Reduce technology risk through accelerating development, testing, and acceptance of interoperability standards with the refinement of standards and best practices
Expand the market and improve choice by encouraging industry adoption of new standards and best practices, ensuring market availability of interoperable solutions
Mobilize new technologies by providing participants with real-world experience and a platform to innovate, while also driving early adoption of standards
Provide a cost-effective method for sponsors and participants to share expertise and development resources while gaining early marketplace insight and advantage
Benefits to Sponsors of the W3C OGC AR Pilot include:
Assess and affect market direction based on your and other sponsor organisation’s needs
Improved visibility as a global leader in information technology critical to Augmented Reality
Amplified funding of solutions by working with multiple sponsors with common/similar problems.
Accelerated process for workable interface specifications, with results delivered in 4-6 months. Follow-on procurements using proven standards-based architecture then lead to more robust AR solutions.
For more information contact Luis Bermudez, Executive Director Innovation Program (lbermudez at opengeospatial.org)