Over the past months, the OS Labs team has been busy developing a GIS based educational game experience using the Oculus Rift virtual reality system. The project is one element in a wider project that is exploring how both virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) can be used to present geospatial data in new and stimulating ways. Read on for a little background on the project…
Virtual reality, as a concept, has existed for many years. The first functional VR headset was built in the sixties, yet long before that, science fiction authors had already been daring to imagine such worlds. The early 90s saw consumer-orientated VR products being developed, marketed and, in some cases, actually released for sale. However, that technology couldn’t meet people’s expectations, leaving many disillusioned. More recent advancements in technology have put it back on the agenda. There is already a broad range of VR kit available for purchase, with more lined up for release in 2018. So, how might this relate to Ordnance Survey? With a sense of ‘place’ being a key component in VR, it seems that there is some common ground to explore.
We’ve just launched the new augmented reality (AR) layer in our OS Maps app which uses your phone’s camera view to display over 200,000 locations across Great Britain. You can identify hills, lakes, settlements, transport hubs and woodland around you and on the horizon. It’s the first time we’ve made AR widely available, but not the first time we’ve used AR. Our Computer Scientist, Layla Gordon, leads the team that experiments with geospatial data and new technologies to create proof of concepts that are shared with partners. Find out about Layla’s work on OS Maps, and the AR projects that came before it.
It’s fantastic to see the OS Maps app AR layer released and being used. You simply point the camera of your Android or iOS device at the landscape and, using GPS and the compass, accurate points of interest that sit in that view will be highlighted.
Taking a look behind the scenes, I created it using Apple iOS Core Location and Core Motion framework. The app accesses the readings from Gyroscope and Accelorometer, to give the accuracy we need. It calls on the OS Placenames API to retrieve the OS populated places, which delivers points of interest within a set radius based on position and orientation. We’ve then set rules within the app to identify which points of interest to prioritise – as the screen could get cluttered with too many points.
If you haven’t tried it yet, take a look at https://www.os.uk/getoutside/AR. But while this is the first AR experience I’ve created which made it to public release, I’ve been working on AR projects for a couple of years.
By Tim Newman, Consumer Product Manager
For over a decade, OS has been active in the field of augmented reality – proving the concept back in 2006 with a thought-leading paper on Mobile Augmented Reality, and more recently prototyping 3D maps of Mars, and creating a navigation app for a Shoreditch basement. We’re now really excited to be using this augmented reality technology to introduce a new feature for OS Maps.
The recently released AR feature will help users learn about their surroundings by labelling and categorising the features around them, finally overcoming the big limitation of maps on mobile: the small screen. Have you ever looked out over a stunning vista and found yourself struggling to identify a hill or work out how far it was to the town below you? Now you can simply hold up your smartphone to find out what you’re looking at and how far away it is. If a place catches your interest, just tap on the label to find out more about it.
This fun and informative new feature was made possible by combining sensor data from the phone with OS data of over 200,000 hills, mountains, coastal features, lakes, settlements, transport hubs and areas of woodland. As a company of data experts, it’s fantastically rewarding to make use of our data to help make the outdoors more enjoyable, accessible and safe. This is what motivates the team and, combined with the great feedback we get from users, drives us to continue improving OS Maps – so keep your eyes peeled for the next bunch of features we’re working on to make it easier than ever to plan your time outdoors. There’s never been a better time to open up OS Maps and GetOutside!
To find out more about AR head to https://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/getoutside/ar/.
Stay tuned to the blog to learn from Layla Gordon in the tech labs team about how it works and the exciting projects that she’s developing with augmented reality.
By Layla Gordon
Back in February OS took a trip off of this planet to produce a paper map of Mars.
This inspired the Tech Labs team, who had been already involved in Augmented Reality (AR) work, to produce a Mars AR experience using this map.
As all good work with augmentation, the first step was to create some 3D content for augmenting the map. Using a set of height data for the planet captured by NASA, and with the advice of Peter Grindrod from UK Space Agency, I produced a height map in Grey Scale. Then using Blender I created a 3D terrain model of the Schiaparelli crater and its surroundings.
At our recent GeoTech Meetup at the Geovation Hub the hot topic of conversation was augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), and how mashing these with geospatial data unlocks the potential for some pretty exciting innovations in the near future.
OS Labs engineer, Layla Gordon, led the event at the Hub, and here she explains some of her adventures with AR…
Our first foray into the virtual spaces goes back to May 2015 where OS was the platinum sponsor of an event called Digital Shoreditch in London. The venue is a Victorian basement with lots of corridors and rooms and in previous years visitors had trouble navigating within the building and finding the exhibitions they wanted to see.