Blippar launches indoor Visual Positioning System for enhanced location-based AR

Blippar launches indoor Visual Positioning System for enhanced location-based AR

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US: Blippar, the leading augmented reality and computer vision company, has announced the launch of its new indoor visual positioning system. By pairing the accuracy of indoor visual positioning using computer vision with the interactivity of augmented reality (AR), Blippar has created a new system that enables any indoor environment, even large spaces, to be turned into a detailed and immersive AR experience. 

This latest product builds upon Blippar’s expertise in using computer vision for location-based AR. In summer 2017, Blippar launched urban visual positioning and showcased its use within the AR City app, which provides users a glimpse of AR navigation and maps. Now, Blippar is extending this technology to indoor environments, disrupting the way we navigate indoor spaces and transforming industries from tourism to entertainment.

One of the system’s core applications is indoor wayfinding. The technology enables users to navigate indoor environments by providing directions and information directly through their camera in AR. This has the potential to be applied to large complexes, such as airports, shopping malls, stadiums and supermarkets, in a cost-effective manner.

The other core application is tying persistent AR experiences to a specific physical location, which will be presented to any user every time they visit that exact location. For example, AR menus can be displayed in front of restaurants in a shopping mall. The menu, along with other AR objects, textures or animations, will then appear consistently at the precise physical location of the restaurant.

The combination of these systems is the first of its kind and can revolutionize a host of industries, including:

  • Shopping and retail: Retailers can use this technology to point customers to particular parts of a store, for instance, or to highlight specific product offerings in a particular aisle. They can also add live promotional AR content on specific locations, such as overlaying reviews on the entrance to a restaurant.
  • Entertainment and gamification: The technology can be used to make AR treasure hunts and games more engaging, as items can be placed in exact locations to enhance users’ experience and enjoyment within their surroundings.
  • Tourism: It can power AR tours of tourist attractions with a virtual guide or enhance AR entertainment for large concert spaces and sport stadiums.
  • Design: Designers can experiment efficiently with many restyling options, as they can add AR furniture, art and wallpapers and quickly see the results in their actual indoor space.

Blippar is the first to provide an easy and practical end-to-end solution, all the way from modeling the physical space to publishing the persistent location-based AR content. Importantly, Blippar’s indoor visual positioning system does not need access to visual maps of the environment (e.g. via SLAM), which require additional expensive technology, are time-consuming to generate, and require frequent updating. Instead, it can be set up quickly from floorplans or architectural CAD models, which are readily available for most indoor environments.

Powering the technology is advanced computer vision, which is essential to support accurate location-based augmented reality that enables smartphone or wearable cameras to recognise the surroundings of a user. It combines Blippar’s pose estimation engine, which determines the location of the user in the environment and the direction they are facing, with Visual Inertial Odometry, which tracks their local movement. The overall system is designed to be non-invasive — it only requires the presence of a few distinctive visual elements, such as posters, paintings or aisle signs, which are typically already present in indoor environments. Hence, it does not need QR codes or expensive localisation equipment like beacons1.

Ambarish Mitra, co-founder and CEO of Blippar, commented: “Since launching AR City, which is in part powered by our urban visual positioning system, we received a lot of interest in applying this technology indoors. I am very proud of what the team has achieved with our indoor visual positioning system. It is another step towards realizing the transformational potential of augmented reality and computer vision and showcases more useful ways these technologies will improve our day-to-day lives.”

Blippar provides an end-to-end solution, from the setup of the environment to the AR content creation, which includes dynamic wayfinding functionalities through Blippar’s navigation engine. The technology currently works on iOS devices and will be launched at a later date for Android. It operates in offline mode, not requiring mobile data or WIFI connection2.

This technology is currently in trial phase and will be launching with a major retailer and other real estate in early 2019.