When you want to augment a digital image creation onto the real world, you'll likely need to point your smart device's camera at the kind of markers found in Sony's TV Size Guide tool or on the front cover of magazines like Esquire. IKEA took this idea a step further by making its 2014 catalog the marker, but a new system from Israel's Cimagine Media uses a tablet or smartphone camera and sensors to position the virtual object in a room without the need for physical markers.
"Our technology uses a combination of internal sensors in the device and image processing that continuously scans the environment the camera sees, resulting in a near reality visualization of the product using live video (and also saved scenes)," the company's Jacqui Basil explains to Gizmag.
Before the markerless magic on the smartphone or tablet screen happens though, a retailer will need to integrate Cimagine's augmented reality system into its online or printed catalog. If suitable 3D models already exist, these can be uploaded to Cimagine's cloud servers, but renders will be created as a professional service if needed.
Each retailer's product catalog and related information is accessed by the customer via a free companion app, which currently runs on the iOS platform only (though Android support is coming). The user needs to download and install the app only once, not separately for each supported retailer.
The augmented catalog content (which is not restricted to furniture) can be accessed and visualized by clicking a button near the product image on the retailer's website. The customer frames up the desired location using the device's camera and the app scans the area. The virtual product rendering then bounces into position, and can be twisted and turned for precision placement thanks to patent-pending 360-degree Super Reality technology, while the built-in tracking engine maintains scale and position as the user moves around.
"We use real time feature extraction and matching combined with our own algorithms and device sensors," says Basil. "Basically we look at the scene that is being recorded, extract certain features and use it in order to continuously place the product in the right location and scale."
A customer will even be able to save photos of a room at home or office at work as scenes in the app, scan a barcode or QR code attached to a product tag in a showroom and then virtually preview that product in the chosen location. The Cimagine system also supports image recognition on product pages in printed media such as flyers, posters and catalogs.
"We are currently in trials and Beta testing with a few customers (retailers) in the UK and Israel," reveals Basil. "We are going to start service rollouts with some of these customers next month. We have also just announced a partnership with NCR and we are negotiating with a few US-based retailers."
In the meantime, the video below shows the system in operation.