The Dependence on Smartphones [infographic]

With the CES 2014 in full swing, we have decided to start this year with an infographic about one of the most used technologies in recent years: the smartphone. With almost 60% of the world population owning and using a smartphone there no doubt that this technology will only become bigger and better. Bendable screens, holographic video calls or antibacterial devices are only a few of the smartphone updates we might see in the near future. Until then here are some interesting stats about the devices we can never leave our home without:

Dependance On Smartphones Interesting Stats

This Infographic is produced by Coupon Audit (provides Converse promo code) and Augmented Tomorrow.

The augmented reality app that got it right

Zombies From Hell Augmented Reality AppGetting an augmented reality app to promote your brand is very common these days especially when your target market is the young and technology savvy peeps. But how do you manage to go beyond the diluted and over-used WOW factor which very few AR apps still manage to achieve nowadays?

A New Zealand pizza chain seems to have found the answer with their newly launched Zombies from Hell augmented reality application. Apparently this is only a simple zombie survival game set in a city that comes to life through the help of augmented reality by pointing a mobile device’s camera to the Hell Pizza box. Players use various weapons to shoot zombies, earn bonuses, compete against their friends and get rewarded with real-world prizes, from free Cokes to free double pizza vouchers. Despite its apparent simplicity the game already seems to be a hit among the Pizza Hell fans and the online AR world. This is mostly down to the way they have managed to master three key success factors which, although quite obvious, are very often missed out even by big companies.

1. Know your target audience

Teenagers Playing GamesA quick look on the Hell Pizza website is enough to understand who is buying their products: young food enthusiasts who enjoy trying new things and define themselves through the buying choices they make. They grew up with technology, console games and mobile phones and they are always up to date with the latest technology. What better way to get their attention than through one of the most popular phenomenon in recent years: a zombie-inspired game.

2. Go viral

If a pizza, an augmented reality app or a zombie shooter game are no longer capable of getting noticed on their own in the cluttered advertising space, combine them together and you get something special. Add some real-world rewards and you already have the interest of your customers and the media alike. Nowadays, free positive publicity is one of the most powerful and many times difficult to control tools of an AR developer as it automatically ensures a stamp of approval from the community and it builds a lot of trust around their brand.

3. Make them come back

Please Come Back SignAfter all this effort of planning and building an AR app that nicely promotes your products and gets noticed by everybody how do you make sure it is much more than just a gimmick?! Zombies from Hell has been created first of all as a full-fledged mobile game with a range of weapons and levels to choose from, many of them having to be unlocked through playing. The learderboard makes sure that the player’s shooting skills will always be remarked by others and its competitive nature will give them bragging rights in front of their friends.

Where the augmented reality app truly excels is in the merger between the augmented reality action and the real-life rewards. Very few apps do it and even fewer do it properly. With Zombies from Hell, getting some free chicken tenders or some free wedges to accompany your next order pizza is as easy as finishing a game level. This gives not only an instant gratification to the player but also boosts their self-achievement, making sure they will return and try to win their next free pizza.

Although the AR app is not perfect, with many users complaining about not being able to order pizza directly through the app and being also limited only to a few high-end Android devices and iPhones, it is certainly one of the good uses of augmented reality in the mobile space in a long time.

Do you have any examples of augmented reality apps that you think are worth mentioning in the “good AR apps” category? If so, please leave a comment below with any explanations you believe are necessary.

Vitamin B2 to Boost 3D Printing

Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)It may sound like a crazy idea but how can a vitamin which plays a key role in energy metabolism help a technological process like 3D printing? Apparently it can, particularly when it comes to 3D printing artificial tissues and medical implants.

Riboflavin also known as vitamin B2 required for a wide variety of cellular processes is usually found in milk, mushrooms, almonds and leafy vegetables like carrots, contributing to the orange colour of solid B-vitamin preparations.

Until now, most 3D printing used in medicine to create scaffolds for growing artificial tissues or implants involve polymers that can be toxic to living cells.  However, the new technique takes advantage of a unique property of riboflavin: sensitivity to light. This allows scientists to use riboflavin as a “photo-initiator” (activated by laser light) which breaks down and allows the 3D printing ‘ink’ to solidify.

Using a laser, researchers created a type of honeycomb scaffolds that contained riboflavin which they then lined with living cells from a cow. The results showed that these scaffolds were more compatible with living cells than the ones made with traditional chemicals, allowing more DNA to survive, scientists reported in the journal Regenerative Medicine.

Many tests and studies will still need to be made until this process can be used on a larger scale mainly because the riboflavin is not as an efficient photo-initiator as the more toxic one currently used in 3D printing, but researchers said this limitation could be overcome.

Windy Day from Motorola to take the AR app market by storm?!

Motorola Windy DayAfter reaching more than 1 million downloads despite being a closed beta version, Ingress will no longer be the only augmented reality game developed by a Google-owned company.  Motorola has recently released a teaser video of a new augmented reality application called “Windy Day” which has a launch date announced for the 29th October.

This augmented reality game seems to be based on an AR project presented earlier this year (during a Qualcomm Uplinq conference) which was exploring the depths of interactive storytelling with a mobile device.

This AR concept gives you, the user, a key to a portal to another world. Your phone’s camera is the window to a world where you could follow the story unfolding in front of your eyes or you could wander and let the story happen around you.

This unboxing video from Geek.com shows a few more details.

The Windy Day app looks more than just another augmented reality app, attracting the involvement of Pixar with some of their animation rendering technologies that allow a real-time and smooth video rendering with almost no stutter. These have been seamlessly integrated within the AR app which rests on a Moto X smartphone, demonstrating the power of the new Qualcomm’s Adreno 320 chip.

Unfortunately there are no other details regarding how this augmented reality project was created and what uses it will have but we are expecting to find out more on the launch date. We would also be curious to find out if this application will only be available to Moto X users (as stated at the end of the video) or if it will be accessible to other Android devices and mobile platforms (in the near future).

What would you like for this AR app to bring into the mobile augmented reality world? Do you think that a smartphone/ tablet AR app is the way forward or do you think that other technologies such as wearable devices (i.e. Google Glass) will be the winners in the AR mobile market?  

7 3D Printed Things That You Can Get Right Now

Out of the box dual head 3D printers, easy to use 3D scanners or expiring 3D printing patents are only some of the latest signs showing that the consumer additive manufacturing market is expanding rapidly. Every day new revolutionary 3D printed objects are announced, from human organs to modular houses, but most of them will only be available to you and me in a few years at least if not more. So what can we 3D print right now that we are going to use in the long term?

3D Printed Bikini

3D Printed Bikini N12Despite their uninspired name, the N12 are, according to their designer, the first completely 3D-printed, ready-to-wear, garments. Although not the first 3D printed clothing item, this bikini is surely the first one available to the larger public and not just as a one-off demonstration of skills and 3D printing technology. The material used to create the 3D printed fabric is a waterproof type of nylon (N12) that becomes more comfortable in water. Its structure uses circles of different sizes which respond to the shape of the body creating smooth edges. So if you are after a unique piece for your wardrobe this might be what you are looking for. We would be very interested to find out how practical this is especially after a few uses.

3D Printed Musical Instruments

shakuhachi-flute-3d-printedAlthough many 3D printed musical instruments are currently printed with industrial 3D printers and may require some other materials and non-3D printed parts made from wood or stainless steel, there are a few that you can print right now or buy them online ready-made. If you are fan of Japanese fantasy movies you will surely love this Shakuhachi flute made entirely from 3D printed stainless steel which you can buy for “only” $239.95. It is fully functional and definitely something that will last for decades. If you are more of a romantic and free type of person, you can try a new instrument called Bajolele (a fusion between a banjo and an ukulele). This is available for free to download and then you can either print it yourself or order it online.

3D Printed Clocks

3D Printed Kaleidoscope ClockThere are many models of clocks available for 3D printing, some more intricate than others, however the one showcased here is both beautiful and not very complicated to put together. The Kaleidoscope clock is made of 2 separate printed parts and a high torque movement mechanism. They can all be purchased online separately for a total combined price of no more than $50. With a few colours to choose from, this 3D printed clock makes for a great present.

3D Printed Shoes

3D Printed ShoesIf you are one of the lucky ones to own a 3D printer or you just want to use one of the many companies printing your 3D models, a pair of 3D printed shoes is surely something you can try. The files you need to feed your additive manufacturing cravings are free to download and available in a range of sizes. With endless variations of colours for your raw materials (ABS or PLA plastic) you can create your unique and bespoke shoes overnight.

3D Printed Coffee Cups

3D Printed CupsNot the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of 3D printing, coffee mugs have traditionally been made either through mass manufacturing processes or hand-made by artisans. The experimental project called One Cup a Day wanted to challenge this concept by designing and printing one cup in Glazed Ceramics per day for 30 days. Even though you can’t print these in your own house from porcelain you can still print them out of plastic, or you can buy the original ones online for prices between $36-$77.

3D Printed Jewellery

3D Printed Gold JewelleryThis is one of the first industries to adopt 3D printing and to start a new business model around unique and fully customisable shapes. Many 3D printed jewellery online stores now offer materials such as silver, stainless steel and even gold for bespoke pieces. Prices vary from a few dollars to thousands without the added premium for personalised jewels that you usually get with traditional hand-made techniques.

3D Printed Furniture

Batoidea 3D Printed Chair3D printed furniture has surely been in the spotlight in the last 3 years and it is becoming more prominent in the 3D printing world, however very few of the 3D printed designs are actually available to buy or download and print yourself. Many require selective laser sintering (SLS) machines which use a very accurate 3D printing technique available usually in industrial environments. Nevertheless, we have managed to find an example that you can buy right now, although in very limited edition. The Batoidea chair designed by Peter Donders uses aluminium to create a very “fluid and airy chair that defies practical conventions”. Unfortunately there are only 12 pieces to buy and they are on display in Moscow until the end of November.

If you have any other examples of functional 3D printed objects that might replace the mass manufacturing ones in the near future please share them with us in the comments section below.

Augmented Reality Sat Nav Launched by Pioneer

Pioneer Augmented Reality Sat NavUntil now, augmented reality has been entering our cities, streets, shops and even our houses and now it is ready to make another step into becoming an integrated part of our lives. An augmented reality sat nav is about to take the car satellite navigation systems by storm, according to its developer, Pioneer.

Known mostly for their digital entertainment products, the Japanese company has recently announced their next generation of sat navs, with an AR head-up display (HUD). Despite the characteristics of many other consumer HUDs which have to be worn either in glasses or in a helmet, this attaches comfortably to the sun visor and delivers a projection 3 metres in front of the driver giving the impression of a 30 inch display.

According to Pioneer, this projection does not interfere in any way with what the driver normally sees through the windscreen and it displays location information as a natural part of the landscape. The new augmented reality sat nav is compatible with various smartphones and even sat nav applications, being able to display navigation instructions, points of interest and live traffic information.

Unfortunately, beyond the projection which does not necessarily need any AR technology to work (unless the position of the digital information is determined by the objects present in the field of view), the only other AR-enabled feature is the red light camera warning. This gives a visual and audio warning to the driver when they approach the red light with a speed higher than the one necessary to stop the car safely.

Pioneer has not released any video or any other test results of this new system in order to prove all the features of the new augmented reality sat nav but we can test it for ourselves in about a month when it will be officially released on the market.

Would you be interested in installing this technology in your car? How much do you think the AR sat nav will improve the way we drive in the future? Please leave your comments below.

3D Printing 2.0 Coming Next Year

Nike 3D Printed ShoesIn 2009 the 3D printing technology started gathering many followers and early adopters overnight and it led to the creation of Makerbot and to an explosion of open-source 3D printers. A similar event that triggered this 4 years ago is about to repeat itself in 2014.

We are not talking about some divine intervention or genius being born but about a more practical and legal event: the expiration of 3D patents. Like any other inventions, 3D printing has been protected for many years by several key patents. In 2009, the patent for a more primitive form of 3D printing called fused deposition modelling (FDM) expired. This process is what we normally see in the current consumer grade 3D printers that use a support material as scaffolding and a modelling material to build the actual 3D model of the object. This quickly led to a fall in price for these 3D printers and to the birth of a new movement of 3D printing enthusiasts and communities.

Something similar is about to happen in 2014. The patents for a more advanced form of 3D printing called selective laser sintering (SLS) are about to expire. SLS is a form of additive manufacturing that uses a high power laser to fuse small particles of plastic, metal and even glass powders into a mass to create the desired 3D object. This process does not require any support material like in the case of FDM and is capable of delivering better quality and more complex shapes without the look and feel of ‘layered material’ like it happens with most consumer 3D printers on the market.

This is an important step in the 3D printing evolution that will take us closer to the utopic democratization of manufacturing, which will allow people to create the things they need when they need them. Although this is only an ideal, the decreasing costs and improving technology means only one thing: 3D Printing 2.0 is about to start.