Bruce Sterling

SANTA CLARA, Calif.--Physical spaces and places are becoming more intertwined with our digital lives through check-ins, hyper-local content, and geotagging. At the Augmented Reality Event being held here this week, start-ups and innovative thinkers are sitting down to brainstorm how the virtual world and the real world are stacking layers of data to create this new hybrid landscape in mobile environments.

Known for his ideological science fiction explorations of the cyberpunk culture, writer Bruce Sterling kicked off the event with a keynote speech Wednesday morning during which he called on developers to think big and build the tools that will make their ideas reality.

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The AR Start-up Launch Pad

A series of AR Start-up Launch Pad sessions, hosted by VentureBeat, showcased five start-ups pitching ideas to a three-member panel. Start-ups Whistlebox, YOUReality, WhereMark, Iryss, and e23 laid out their augmented reality business plans and answered questions from the panel.

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AR tools

Sessions throughout the day Wednesday touched on subjects ranging from e-commerce business models incorporating augmented reality to marketing techniques and methods and resources for obtaining funding.

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Target markets

Many of the discussions during the panel analysis at the Launch Pad focused on a fundamental principle of business: how will you make money?

YouReality's plans to supplement the home building and design industry with augmented reality planning met with approval from the panel, who said they see this as being one of the most relevant and immediate applications of virtual augmentation.

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WhereMark

WhereMark is a live view augmented overlay that shows information on where to eat and play, and how to get there.

Adding a more social layer to the merging of the real and virtual worlds, WhereMark Connect allows users to create their own location-based content, share it with their social networks, and access it from anywhere. Your friends' recommendations are now live in this augmented reality world, in theory making WhereMark's points of interest more relevant to you.

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Ted Pollack

Gaming industry analyst Ted Pollack tries on a pair of augmented reality glasses developed by optical researchers ORA Engineering.

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Tagdis

Also at the AR Start-Up Launch Pad, game developer e23 showed off Tagdis, a virtual graffiti game. Inside the game, where real places have been tagged with art and messages like virtual graffiti on real buildings, you can become the "king" of a street, a block, or an entire neighborhood. A "strong" tag, voted on by the community, will earn you major street cred.

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YDreams

Working on the development of immersive environments and gesture-based interactions, YDreams demonstrates a few of their virtual capabilities Wednesday, with blocks tumbling into and bouncing off the hands of the player.

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Stereoscopic headset

Vuzix's consumer stereoscopic headset captures 752x480 images at 60 frames per second, and delivers a single 1504x480 side-by-side image for detailed virtual reality views.

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AR Demo

Showing off their headset with a labyrinth-like game in which you roll a ball along an obstacle course, Vuzix's AR glasses turned this cardboard rectangle into a game inside the glasses.

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Point matching

Using a system they call the D-Track engine and by matching similar points of a surface during movements, Zenitum is able to create 3D virtual overlays that understand depth and boundaries of objects without specific markers.

Here, demonstrating their augmented reality pet iKat, Zenitum shows how after recognizing points of a computer keyboard, your virtual kitten can move around the boundaries of the laptop, and change size relative to the mobile device's distance from the computer.

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Whistlebox

Pitched at the AR Start-Up Launch Pad as the world's first augmented reality cartoon, Whistlebox's Chas Mastin demos Do Crew, an interactive game for the little ones.

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Adidas

A shoe-controlled video game? That's a real shoe, made by Adidas and available now, which can be used as a video game controller for special games on the Adidas Web site.

Although interactive relationships between the real and virtual worlds today are mostly confined to fun and interesting applications, forums like the Augmented Reality conference are bringing together start-ups and people with big ideas for the future.

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