Tuesday, 27 January 2015

skignz geo-located augmented reality viewer explained

skignz logo

Brief glossary

The name, skignz, it's pronounced sky-nz and is supposed to represent 'sky signs'.

Geo-located: the skignz, objects and signs, are set in position on the planet using longitude and latitude co-ordinates.

Augmented reality: in this case, it's the combining of real images, as seen through the camera on a smart phone, along with computer generated images overlaid on top of the live image.

A short description

The skignz system is divided into two parts:
  •  a web based part which you use from a large screen format such as an iPad, good sized tablet, laptop or desktop computer. It's here where you upload images and set objects on the map. More on that later.
  • a smartphone part which is the viewer. This is in the form of an app available on iOS and Android, The app uses your GPS, camera and the tilt sensors to figure out where you are and what you should be looking at and calculates which computer generated images are in range and should be displayed over the live camera image.
Combining geo-located and Augmented reality means that you'll only see the computer generated images when your camera is pointing to them and is in range.

Some examples

Here are some iPhone screen shots which I hope will give you an idea of what's seen via the camera:
The base of  a massive 3D 60 metre turbine + some skignz on Teesside campus

skignz screen shot
Looking up at a 60 metre virtual wind turbine

skignz screen shot
Random skignz I placed outside my house

skignz really can bee anything! I made and uploaded this huge bee and placed it in my room.

What can it be used for

The list is endless and only limited by your imagination but here are a few suggestions:

  • The general public
    • place a skign over your car so you can find it again.
    • geocaching enthusiasts can place a skign over caches
    • place a skign only your friends can see marking that private party
    • place a congratulatory skign over a friend's house eg 'Happy Birthday'
    • mark a route for others to follow
    • leave a secret message for a pal
    • place a skign over yourself which will follow you, which only your friends can see
    • place fun skignz around you just for amusement
    • mark places of historical importance in your town
    • etc ...
  • Event organisers
    • mark the exits
    • show where the toilets are
    • place skignz over refreshment areas
    • use interactive skignz to say what events are coming up next
    • encourage corporate sponsors to use the skignz as a new source of revenue
    • etc ..
  • Corporate sponsors
    • get brand exposure at events and around places of interest
    • brand exposure is unobtrusive and relavent
    • link skignz to your product pages
    • etc ..
  • Companies & organisations
    • lay virtual markers along buried pipelines or cables
    • tag those wind turbines
    • see what a wind turbine farm would look like in the environment
    • see the impact of a full size building. Walk inside and look out of the ground floor windows!
    • mark places of scientific or archaeological importance with zero environmental impact
    • put virtual signs, skignz, around your headquarters
    • show the buildings on a university campus
    • mark the bus stops, stations or tubes.
    • etc ..

Briefly describe how to do stuff

Using the viewer:
  • install the skignz app
  • launch it and look around - unless you're at a venue that uses skignz, chances are there's nothing around you to see. Middlesbrough high street has lots of them as does Teesside uni campus.
  • If you want to place skignz around - you have an event or just want to play - you'll need a skignz account.
  • An account can be set up from the iPhone but it's MUCH easier to upload new images and / or place them on the map using a large format screen like a laptop via the web site at http://www.skignz.com.
The web site:
  • signing up for an account is self-explanatory
  • let's place one of the library skignz where ever you are:
    • Log in
    • select 'place skign using map'
    • in the search box type your address and locate yourself on the map. I find turning the satellite option on helps
    • click the blue plus (+) symbol to add a skign
    • it should appear - you can click on it to select:
      • skignz & objects: to select a template design or object
      • text: some skignz have text fields which you can fill in
      • size: go for medium - the equivalent of a 4 metre square sign
      • level: where in the eye-line it should be - low, high etc
      • On touch: is what to do when someone presses on the skign via the viewer.
        • you can have it pop up a message, dial a number, go to a web URL etc
      • Expire in: how many days you want it to stay there.
      • save and you're done - open your skignz app and see where it is.
        • move it around on the map if it's too close / far away.
  • Uploading your own designs is done via the 'Manage skignz templates' option.
    • create a png
    • upload it
    • add any text fields
    • done.
    • you can decide who is allowed to place it on the map, anyone, just you, friends or members of a group you're a member of.
    • this skign will appear on the list when you go back to place a skign on the map.
  • Have a click round the other options and if you need more help let me know in the comments and I'll do some more.
Have fun :)

skignz developer update

skignz logo

skignz: geo-located augmented reality viewer update

A new skignz update has prompted this update. The next version on iPhone (1.53) will include a URL scheme for app integration.
Here's an extract from the skignz developer section.

iOS app developers

From Vers. 1.53 the skignz app registers a URL scheme.
Check the iOS app version via 'Help'->'About' or see 'You can test the URL scheme on your iPhone/iPad' below.
The skignz URL scheme is: skignz://

You can test the URL scheme on your iPhone/iPad

  • Select Safari
  • Type: skignz:// into the address bar
  • All being well (skignz 1.53 or higher is installed) the skignz app will be run
  • If there's a problem:
    1. skignz is not installed,
    2. the skignz app hasn't been updated to 1.53 or above, or
    3. there was a typo
This simple interface allows any app to launch the skignz app.

Objective-C example

  Use at your own risk. No guarantees and supplied 'as is'.
- (void)buttonPressed:(UIButton *)button
  NSString *skignzURL = @"skignz://";
  NSString *itunesURL = @"itmss://itunes.apple.com/us/app/skignz/id698652561";

  if ([[UIApplication sharedApplication] canOpenURL:[NSURL URLWithString:skignzURL]])
    [[UIApplication sharedApplication] openURL:[NSURL URLWithString:skignzURL]];
    [[UIApplication sharedApplication] openURL:[NSURL URLWithString:itunesURL]];

For more advanced integration

For example: skignz to display a 'Done' button which, when pressed, causes skignz to relaunch your app
Please contact the email address below with your contact & app details.
If you have any comments, questions or special considerations please contact gary.baker@skignz.com

By 'more advanced integration' they mean that, if your app is considered suitable (no adult content) they'll give you a user code, which you embed in the URL scheme. Pass that and your own app URL scheme and the skignz app will provide a 'Done' button, which, when pressed, will launch your app again.
It works well.

More integration options are in the pipeline and they're busy 'running catch-up' with the Android version to get it in line with the iPhone version.

No decision has been made about the Windows version but skignz have signed up as a Microsoft developer.

I have lots (4) emails asking what skignz is exactly. I'll publish this update then compose another blog entry shortly to explain.

Oh, and, Happy New Year! :)