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Massively Multiplayer Augmented Reality Games

I recently finished my master thesis about Massively Multiplayer Augmented Reality Games. This thesis is written with the intention of proving that real-time massively multiplayer Location Based Augmented Reality games can be developed for currently widely disseminated mobile devices. To proof this idea, a focus is laid on both displaying and interacting with location based information in 2D or 3D as well as synchronizing states and local information with other application participants. In addition, the thesis deals with the business point of view of building large-scaled AR applications.

A prototype of a real-time massively cooperative multiplayer game is developed in addition to writing this thesis to prove that complex AR applications can be developed and used at the current time. A Real-time massively multiplayer game is chosen because games of this genre usually have high demands on both user interactions and on graphical representation capabilities. What is more, massively multiplayer online games have a great business potential, which most likely forms the basis of successfully adopting new technologies to the market.

As developing such an application is rather complex and time-consuming, libraries that facilitate the development are chosen for as many tasks as possible. Therefore, only libraries that are available for free are used. This way, it is assured that the outcome can be reproduced without making large investments.

The thesis is structured in five main chapters: Firstly, it is explained why creating applications like the prototype might be financially feasible to companies. The business relevance of AR and Android centered mobile application development is highlighted with examples and figures. Here a focus is laid on mobile game development. Secondly, the thesis compares freely available graphics engines on Android and highlights requirements and technical problems when developing AR applications on mobile devices. Thirdly, the prototype application is explained in detail. The idea behind creating the prototype is pointed out and both the view of the user and the implementation of the administration interface is explained. Fourthly, important aspects of the actual implementation are structured and all encountered problems are clarified. This chapter is mainly focused on engineering and programming tasks. Whenever possible, solutions for encountered problems are given. Lastly, the thesis provides a short conclusion about the results.

Cross-Platform Mobile Web Development

This paper is written with the intention of describing and outlining state of the art techniques of developing mobile web applications and websites that are adapted to small screens, which are common on mobile devices. Therefore an example website that uses advanced features of displaying and interacting with websites on mobile devices is build in addition to writing this paper. This example website is intended to be accessible from PCs, Android based devices, iPhones, and Amazon Kindle devices and will adapt its appearance to the respective displaying limitations.

The paper starts with giving an overview of current limitations and facilitations that are related to create content that is intended to be consumed on mobile devices. It then continues with giving detailed examples of how to develop websites that adapt to devices with limited displaying capabilities in chapter 3. In this chapter, the design of the example website is outlined in detail. Chapter 4 then continues with giving an overview of currently available web development frameworks that support creating cross-platform web applications. Finally, the thesis discusses the results and concludes about future improvements of mobile web development.

The example website is intended to be similar to a personal homepage. It is divided into four parts:

  1. The homepage,
  2. a personal blog,
  3. a simple project repository, and
  4. a Curriculum vitae of the person owning the website.

A mobile web application for consuming and interacting with the website articles is hosted under the project repository in addition.

Augmented Reality

With Augmented reality (AR) the live view of the real world is merged with augmented computer-generated images. This augmentation is done in real time and in semantic context with environmental elements. All information that is hereby augmented to the real world becomes interactive and digitally usable.

Furthermore, AR is interactive and registered in 3D according to Carmigniani et al. It combines real and virtual objects and "aims at simplifying the user's life by bringing virtual information not only to his immediate surroundings, but also to any indirect view of the real-world environment, such as live-video streams".

AR is oftentimes implemented with head-mounted displays, computers or portable devices like Smartphones, but it is not limited to improve the sense of sight. In fact, AR could be applied to all kinds of senses like smell, touch or hearing. Thus it could be used to augment or substitute users missing senses by sensory substitution like augmenting the sight of blind users or users with poor vision, and it could as well augment hearing of deaf users by the use of visual cues.

While AR used to appear only in science fiction movies for a long time it has now been applied broadly in industrial environments. Nowadays AR can be applied in many fields of the product development cycle and in manufacturing processes, including:

  • Product Design,
  • Design Review and Design Evaluation,
  • Material Processing,
  • Assembly Planning and Verification,
  • Assembly Training and Guidance,
  • Robot Control and Programming for Industrial Applications,
  • Factory Facility Layout Planning, as well as
  • Maintenance

While computer-aided design software, computer-aided manufacturing software, as well as computer-aided assembly planning software have traditionally been used in these fields for a long time, virtual reality technologies were applied in addition to these programs to enhance the aforementioned processes recently.

Although VR and AR have many similarities, both technologies have different areas of application. Ong et al consider VR to outperform AR-based systems for "applications where process simulation and interactions using highly accurate models are vital while little intervention from the user is needed" (Ong, et al., 2011 pp. 651, 652). Reasons for this are the presence of tracking errors of currently available AR implementations. In contrast, AR is better suited to applications where manipulations and interactions with tangible objects are important.