EU backs ST-Ericsson to deliver augmented reality

Metaio, STMicroelectronics and ST-Ericsson are amongst the companies that are collaborating in a European Union funded project to develop augmented reality systems and applications.


The three-year project, called Venturi, has a total budget of 5.52 million euro (about $7.4 million) and is set to receive 3.64 million euro (about $4.9 million) in funding from the European Commission. Coordinated by the Bruno Kessler Foundation of Trento the participants are: Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute, ST-Microelectronics, Metaio, ST-Ericsson, e-Diam Sistemas, Sony Ericsson and INRIA (Institut National de Recherche en Informatique et en Automatique, France).


Metaio GmbH (Munich, German) was founded in 2003 and has developed the Unifeye Viewer image recognition system and software design kit. Venturi applications will be developed using ST-Ericsson’s smartphone platforms while being optimized to take advantage of next-generation hardware and software. The research groups will port technologies such as visual recognition and tracking algorithms, onto ST-Ericsson platforms and test them with users in several real-life situations.


Augmented reality is a fusion of real-world images and relevant digital information such as text, images and graphics. It uses the ability of camera-equipped mobile devices to recognize buildings and objects based on geolocation information and access to remote databases, which allows contextual information to be drawn down and overlaid. Pioneered in some military applications these technologies are starting to be touted for smartphone and tablet computers.

The Venturi project began with a kick off meeting in October and has the goal of developing mobile augmented reality “platform” equipped with sensors and cameras and sufficient processing performance and bandwidth.


As part of the project the team will build on Metaio’s work to develop visual localization techniques based on 3-D scene analysis. By recognizing buildings and being context aware during a 360 degree sweep of a location it should allow the platform to download of relevant information. In addition the use of gyroscopes and accelerometers could also permit the user to interact with their device through natural gestures instead of typing on a screen.


“The goal of Venturi is to create a new content delivery paradigm through Augmented Reality that focuses more on the user rather than on the device,” said Paul Chippendale, researcher at the Bruno Kessler Foundation and coordinator of Venturi. “The project is working in close collaboration with the French and German Institutes for the Blind who are very enthusiastic to explore the possibility of using the ideas laid out in Venturi to improve lives. One of the partners is working on 3-D Augmented Audio, through non-invasive headphones to intelligently enrich the world through a flow of sounds. We are therefore working with different types of users to understand how our technologies can be useful in practical situations.”


Viviana D’Alto, director of computer vision research platform at STMicroelectronics, said: “Collaborating with the project’s partners to facilitate device convergence, STMicroelectronics will leverage its image- and video-processing expertise, along with its unique SW and HW integration skills, to provide new and exciting ways to interact with portable devices, while addressing energy-management constraints.”

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