A couple weeks ago I attended a meetup group for Unity enthusiasts. Unity is an essentially free 3D game engine (Licenses based on publishing platforms). It has a huge following in the indie community and a large amount of resources for learning. It plays incredibly well with most 3D applications, and if your already familiar with any major 3D program it’s pretty easy to step right into Unity and have the basic navigation down. Plus it publishes to pretty much every major platform (pc/mac desktop, web player/flash, IOS, android, 360, ps3)
Part of the presentation was given by a representative from Qualcom showing off a package they have built that effortlessly gets your Unity project into Augmented Reality mode. It looked so easy I had to try it out once I got home. It took a couple hours to download, install the software, license, and get setup as an ios developer so I could test on my phone. But once everything was in place it really was drag and drop to get instant augmented reality on my iphone.
The Qualcomm AR package is an asset that you download and import into your unity project. It contains scripts that set up your device as a 3d camera and tracks an image to determine the cameras location and orientation relative to the tracked image. Qualcomm even has a free utility online where you can upload your tracking image, test it for tracking performance and then download it in a package thats ready to drop into Unity.
It’s tough to say just how excited I was when my little 3d model actually showed up on my iphone. All my experiments have been really basic so far. I’ve just been using elements that I have premade from maya that I have dropped into unity.
I think augmented reality is still a novelty product. It’s definitely very cool, but I think theres still a lot of barriers to overcome before we see mass adoption in the smart phone/tablet market.
Unity LA Meetup Group: http://www.meetup.com/LAUnity3D/
Unity Game Engine : http://unity3d.com/unity/
Qualcomm AR for Unity (Vuforia): https://developer.qualcomm.com/mobile-development/mobile-technologies/augmented-reality