AR

Augmented Reality and Animation: Cosmically Engaging Museum Visitors at the Space Foundation’s Discovery Center

Argis Solutions collaborates with Worker Studio to bring the Space Foundation’s interactive augmented reality character to life for education and engagement at the Discovery Center in Colorado Springs, CO.

By Alyssa Grant

Recognizing the engaging power of augmented reality (AR) and its value as an educational tool, the Space Foundation enlisted animation company Worker Studio and augmented reality experts Argis Solutions to develop an exciting educational tool for the Space Foundation’s Discovery Center. Worker Studio crafted the transmedia edutainment character, astronaut Eugene “Cosmo” Nutt, and Argis Solutions created the AR platform that brings Cosmo alive in app form so that he can interact with his audience in three-dimensional settings.

Cosmo had his augmented reality debut April 8-11 at the 35th Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, the annual gathering of space professionals sponsored by the Space Foundation. His mission at the Space Symposium was to host a prototype for a planned multimedia exhibit at the Discovery Center and demonstrate how AR can foster deeper educational engagement when paired with traditional museum exhibits. In the future, educators at the Space Foundation hope to use him in app-based learning, augmented reality, short films, virtual classrooms, and even as an animated talk show host that guests and audiences can interact with in real time. 

Worker Studio’s cosmically delightful character Cosmo has been in development for years. His AR capabilities were brought to life by merging Maya, a computer animation and modeling software, with Unity, a 3D game development platform. Chris Anderson, Vice President of Augmented Reality at Argis Solutions, said, “One of the hardest things to do is create amazing movie quality graphics and animations while keeping in mind the limited capabilities on mobile devices. With the new features of Unity 3D, and the always increasing power of phones and tablets, it is now becoming a reality.” These technological advancements give authenticity to the real-world interactions Cosmo has with his audience, fostering deeper engagement.

Speaking about the collaboration between Worker Studio and Argis, Anderson remarked, “It was an amazing opportunity to get to partner with animators who have worked on blockbuster movies and bring their creations to life through AR.” The feeling is mutual. 

Reflecting on the project, Jason Cangialosi, Partner and Minister of Propaganda at Worker Studio, added, “Working with the team at Argis opened up a new universe of possibilities in augmented reality. I see it like they helped us build the rocket that got Cosmo on the Moon, and now we’re ready to go to Mars!”

The Space Foundation isn’t alone in appreciating the benefits of AR. Increasingly, museums across the globe are finding creative ways to merge AR with their exhibits. In the spirit of Pokemon Go, the National Museum of Singapore’s exhibit The Story of a Forest allowed visitors to search and capture flora and fauna that were found in the exhibit’s botanical drawings. Jennifer Billock writing for Smithsonian.com notes, “With augmented reality, museums are superimposing the virtual world right over what’s actually in front of you, bringing exhibits and artifacts to life in new ways.” The interactive nature of AR combined with the flexibility of mobile devices allows museums to draw visitors from their living room to the exhibit or experience parts of the exhibit from the comfort of their living room. Younger generations, with their deeply digitalized childhoods, could also find more meaningful engagement when AR is merged with museum exhibits.

One of the next missions on the horizon for Cosmo is to connect with Space Foundation visitors at the upcoming Space in Our State exhibit this fall. Colorado is a national leader in school and business contribution to the advancement of space exploration. Space in Our State will allow visitors to bring Colorado to life as they learn about our state’s important role in helping space programs achieve lift-off. Interested in becoming a sponsor of this landmark exhibit?  Want to get behind something that demonstrates the importance of space exploration to communities throughout Colorado? Visit www.spacefoundation.org/donate to contribute to this exciting mission.

Addressing Aging Infrastructure: Make AR Part of Your Solution

GIS data shown through augmented reality technology can help communicate discrepancies during the remediation process for upgrading underground infrastructure. 

By Alyssa Grant 

The Flint water crisis highlights the consequences of aging underground infrastructure and the deeply negative impact it can have on a community. Remediation can be a daunting, complex process. The remediation efforts to replace Flint’s lead and galvanized steel pipes with copper piping will be winding down by the end of the year. As of September 2018, 15,031 pipes have been excavated and 7,233 pipes have been identified as requiring replacement, underlining the scope of this headline-making water utility remediation project. 

Flint is not alone—aging underground infrastructure is a nationwide issue. The 2017 Infrastructure Report Card gives America’s drinking water a “D,” communicating that communities across the country are in dire need of water pipeline upgrades. 

Outdated natural gas pipelines are another concern. Old pipelines can leak, damaging the environment, even resulting in explosions causing property damage and fatalities, like the Merrimack Valley gas explosions on September 13, 2018 that resulted in 80 fires and one death. 

Updating aging utilities can be a complicated task.  Gregory Korte’s investigation on the state of our nation’s natural gas pipelines for USA Today revealed that the aging gas pipelines in Merrimack Valley were acknowledged to be a challenge to remediate:

“. . . Columbia Gas warned state regulators that replacing pipes in places like Lawrence would be difficult. The pipelines were in densely populated areas dominated by paved surfaces. They're intertwined with other utilities in crowded rights of way. " 

Unfortunately, the explosions occurred before improvements could be fully addressed. The costs related to the resulting damage could reach $1 billion

The complexities of underground infrastructure and the delicate excavation that can be involved in remediation underline the need for a sophisticated way to view and share mapping data. Some companies and municipalities are finding that augmented reality technology meets that need. 

What is augmented reality (AR)? This technology interposes computer-generated images in a real-world setting. Imagine being able to see GIS data through a cell phone camera—a scene you might see through the camera’s eye with AR could be a sewer line below a sidewalk intersected by a natural gas pipeline that crosses underneath an adjacent roadway. 

With the Argis Lens, a mobile AR application, that imagined scene is reality. The Lens quickly visually communicates what lies beneath the ground because a picture is worth a thousand words, especially when the complex GIS data of water or natural gas pipelines and sewer or stormwater systems are involved. The Argis Lens dynamically translates GIS data into AR imagery on mobile iOS devices.  

Using AR, underground infrastructure stakeholders can project their GIS data on new job sites to show foremen and construction crews where underground assets are located in real time. In addition, with the Lens, they can confirm that all assets are marked appropriately before excavation begins. Leveraging this technology, these companies are seeing a new level of collaboration between their asset protection teams and contractors because they are using AR to communicate high-risk areas where particular care needs to be taken before digging.

Cities, pipeline, and utility companies can all benefit from increased productivity on the job site, improved communication, and data quality confirmation. As infrastructure below the ground continues to deteriorate and become obsolete, proactive stakeholders with underground assets will turn to new technology, such as the Argis Lens, for more effective solutions as they upgrade and improve what is hidden.

DevSummit 2019 Talk: Augmented Reality Paired with Computer Vision

Argis Solutions’ CEO Brady Hustad presented on computer vision and augmented reality and how to use the Open Computer Vision Library with ArcGIS at Esri’s 2019 DevSummit. 

By Alyssa Grant 

At Esri’s 2019 DevSummit held in Palm Springs, CA on March 5-8, machine learning and ArcGIS REST JS created a big buzz. Another hot topic among DevSummit attendees was how developers are switching to 4X JavaScript libraries, which allows for more 3D capability and better functionality. This conference is the annual opportunity for Esri’s expert developers to share their technical knowledge with other software developers to help them write better code, build better systems, and create state-of-the-art apps that utilize ArcGIS mapping technology. While there are 8 rooms simultaneously hosting a full daily schedule of talks, there’s also a little time for dodgeball and beer! 

Argis Solutions’ CEO Brady Hustad had the honor of sharing how to integrate computer vision and Esri, explaining how to use the Open Computer Vision Library (Open CV) with ArcGIS. The presentation covered the technical setup of Open CV, some interesting tips on how to successfully connect it to ArcGIS, and coding tips that will help Open CV function properly for developers interested in using computer vision in their next project. Reflecting on his talk, Hustad remarked, “It was exciting to see how people are getting creative and how computer vision and machine learning are impacting the way they are doing business. People are seeing ways to go beyond doing maps and creating systems software.” 

Computer vision enables a computer to see something and make a decision that a human no longer has to make. For example, if hundreds of miles of roadways need to be analyzed for damage, computer vision could allow the computer to look through thousands of images and determine which images contain road damage. In robotics, computer vision has been one of the hardest problems for programmers to solve. Now with access to libraries such as OpenCV and some some finesse to connect it to ArcGIS, programmers are able to attempt to integrate this complex technology in ways that will shape the future of business. 

Big cities can be GPS black holes—their large volume of concrete and metal throws off GPS service and blocks signals. It can be difficult to get accurate geographic data. Using the rough satellite location of the mobile device, the computer can compare and compute location using two known points, giving improved accuracy in the city. Computer vision could enable the mobile device to detect an asset such as a manhole cover, storm drain, or hydrant. It just needs to be trained to see these known above-ground facilities, enabling the ability to generate accuracy where before none existed. 

Together, AR and computer vision could be used to document missing GIS assets. The computer could be programmed to be passively viewing in the background with the ability to notice an asset that is not documented in the ArcGIS data. The computer would then generate a basic record with spatial location. Its final step would be to ask the end user for further details, for instance: “This asset is not found in your data. Is this correct?” This would be an efficient way to quality check data. 

Computer vision could also be used to train a computer to look at an asset when a field worker is looking at it and then automatically pull up the right manual to work on that asset, streamlining field work. As AR visualizer improves with computer vision and image recognition this will all be possible. Computer vision is a game changer in improving accuracy and processes. 

How do we get there? Spatial referencing is required. Once you know where something is in space by way of dual cameras, you can extrapolate 3D space around it. Most mobile devices now come standard with dual cameras, paving the way for programming these functionalities. Argis Solutions has also made the code for Brady Hustad’s talk available on GITHub for developers interested in building projects using the OpenCV library and ArcGIS

What is needed to program computer vision? A knowledge of a modern programming language like Swift, C++, Java, Python, Kotlin, etc. A developer will also need to be savvy with mobile software like ARCOREARKitOpenCVEsri, etc. Lastly, a project using Open CV and ArcGIS will need decent software and high availability GIS data. If you would like tips and further information on programming, please visit GITHub, where our example is built in Android using Java and Esri’s ArcGIS Runtime SDK for Android.

ArcGIS and CAD Featured on Esri

ArcGIS and CAD Featured on Esri

Argis Solutions recent work with Silver Lake Construction Company has been highlighted in depth by Chris Andrews on Esri’s ArcGIS blog. Andrews recognizes the value augmented reality (AR) adds to GIS data, noting: 

 “As a product manager driving 3D, BIM, and other related software efforts at Esri, I’m always looking for applications of geospatial technology that can improve the lives of real users.  We get asked about AR a ton and whether through partner apps, such as Argis Solutions, or through development using our ArcGIS Runtime SDKs, it’s great to be able to report that real partners and customers are building AR applications that are transforming the experience of GIS in the field.  I expect to see much more like this in the future.”

2-Dimensional vs Augmented Reality: What's Next for the Digital Map

2-Dimensional vs Augmented Reality: What's Next for the Digital Map

Augmented Reality (AR) is a technology that superimposes a computer-generated image on a user's view of the real world, thus providing a composite view.  The composite view of AR brings that necessary connection between maps and the real world. It is the missing link to a seamless user experience. Users can make better decisions faster because they can immediately interpret their data in context with the world it is intended to represent. 

Mitigating Risk by Visualizing Hidden Assets with AR

Esri recently released a new case study titled Mitigating Risk by Visualizing Hidden Assets with Augmented Reality, which details how Argis Solutions is providing real return on investment for Whiting Petroleum’s One Call Department. This paper delves deeper into how Whiting is using the field ready Argis Framework and Lens to improve their geospatial data on remote wellpads.

Not all Data is Created Equal

How AR Changes Data Collection

By C. Anderson

The aim of creating geospatial data is to document the world around us as accurately as possible, so as to communicate clearly and in some cases, predict possible outcomes. To do this GIS managers create data to represent their company’s assets. We recently caught up with Chris Anderson, VP of Augmented Reality, and he shared some of his thoughts on how AR is changing how we create GIS data. 

I recently reviewed GIS data for one of our customers who has some experience working with our Argis Lens in the field, but was having difficulty with their geospatial data.  What I found was that though the data was great for a 2D map; however, it was inaccurate when it was used in the world of 3D, namely, Augmented Reality.  How did this data become so inaccurate?  

In most cases GIS data on well sites are hand drawn, possibly through redlining. The practice of redlining is drawing on the screen and later converting the drawing to a feature class in Esri’s ArcGIS Desktop that stores attributes, geographic location. The purpose of the redline is to act as a markup feature for communicating geographic information to the GIS editors.  This method would cause inaccuracy of placement of the data for field operations especially if they were not quality checked after they were drawn and before they were introduced as production data.  5 meters (~16ft) is a long distance when viewing it in person. It can mean the difference of an asset being on one side or the other side of a road. Keep in mind that redlining is normally done using an aerial photo and back in the day those photos may have been 10ft resolution while now you can normally get 2.5ft for the right price. The point being that you have already included a certain amount of error because you weren’t using survey grade GPS points.

I also noticed that the 3rd party pipelines appear to have been digitized for better viewing on 2D maps by placing them 15-20 feet apart. When I was a mapper it was common practice to digitize one line and then duplicate and offset the other lines. Needless to say this removes the possibility of line crossings that may or may not occur. This was a great solution for working with a 2D map where accuracy of 10+ feet is fine and shows well on an aerial photo or a scale of 1:2400 or more, but it can become an issue when viewing in the real world through Augmented Reality. Even with the ability to adjust your position in Argis Lens it still may prove insufficient to displaying its true location. An example to better describe this is if a line is digitized along a road but digitized on the incorrect side or crossing the road when it should only be on one side of it. At certain scales such as 1:2400 this would not be an issue because the line would still indicate where in the world it is; however, if you are standing on that road, and attempting to physically locate it, 10ft+ can make a huge difference (assuming 2 lane road with a standard 12ft lane).

With AR, a new level of detail and accuracy is needed with digitized assets. If you are in a similar situation, we recommend cleaning up the locational inaccuracies of the data with the knowledge of field technicians, GPS units, and collection software used in conjunction with the GPS like Tri-Global’s Utilipad which can integrate with locators and ease the collection burden.  Argis Solutions is the most knowledgeable about improving current 2D quality GIS data and translating it into functional 3D, augmented reality, ready data.

AR is coming to the locate field. It will improve accuracy because those knowledgeable field technicians can step directly into the map and document changes, and location of underground assets. Preparing your data for this technology is not only money well spent but it is the way of the future. Don’t let yourself fall behind.

Chris Anderson is the VP of AR at Argis Solutions, with over 20 years in the field of GIS, a GISP, and a member of the Esri community based out of St. Louis, MO.