New Gallery Exhibit: Augmented Reality Selfie

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The Autodesk Gallery at One Market in San Francisco celebrates design — the process of taking a great idea and turning it into a reality. With about 60 different exhibits regularly on display that showcase the innovative work of Autodesk customers, the gallery illustrates the role technology plays in great design and engineering. I am one of about 80 ambassadors that conduct tours of the gallery. Being an ambassador is no one's full-time job. Most of us do it simply to practice our public speaking. By the way, the reason we chose the title ambassador instead of docent is because the correct way to address an ambassador is "your excellency," yet that never happens. :-)

Virtual reality is an artificial world consisting of images and sounds created by a computer that is affected by the actions of a person experiencing it. Most first-person video games are examples of virtual reality. Augmented reality is an enhanced version of reality created by the use of technology to overlay digital information on an image of something being viewed through a device such as a camera on a smartphone. When the Yelp application overlays restaurant names on top of a smartphone's street view using the phone's camera, that's augmented reality. A popular application of augmented reality is all of the graphics that appear when watching sporting events such as NFL games.

One of our two newest exhibits is the Augmented Reality Sandbox. The other is the Augmented Reality Selfie.




If you visit the gallery, you can augment yourself:

  • Inside the Apollo 11 Space Capsule.
  • Next to the Mercedes-Benz BIOME Car.
  • Underwater among the coral reefs of the Hydrous project.
  • Shrunken to the size of microbiology.

Much like the other augmented reality exhibit, it's not black magic. A Kinect unit is an inexpensive scanner. The Kinect simply scans your body, computes a 3D model from the scanned data, and merges that 3D model of you into the 3D scene. The 3D scene is then rendered to the display, augmenting the scene with your reality. Where you get merged into the scene depends on how far away you stand from the Kinect.

That's how visitors can step into scenes on the screen that feature work by Autodesk partners and customers, many of which are featured in gallery exhibits.

  • For the command module Columbia from the Apollo 11 mission. Smithsonian and Autodesk collaborated to create this 3D model with Autodesk ReCap software from 3D scans that captured nearly 1 trillion high-resolution measurements, making it one of the most sophisticated scans ever made of a historical artifact.

  • The car of the future, the Mercedes-Benz Biome, was designed using Autodesk Maya software. This Mercedes-Benz concept car is unlike anything else, built from a lightweight biological material that is grown from seeds.

  • So visitors can dive into the coral reefs of the Maldives, Sly Lee and his team at The Hydrous are used advanced 3D mapping and rendering (such as Autodesk ReCap software) to monitor and protect these undersea treasures.
  • More than just carriers of genetic information, DNA can be used to create 2D and 3D structures at the nanoscale like a microscopic version of the Autodesk logo from the Autodesk Nanodesign project — a developing science that could lead to useful medical applications.

Since Facebook has degenerated into people simply sharing and commenting on fake news, I opted to email the photos to myself rather than post them to social media.


The Autodesk Gallery in San Francisco is open to the public on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. There is a guided tour on Wednesdays at 12:30 pm and a self-guided audio tour available anytime. Admission is free. Visit us.

Augmentation is alive in the lab.