Like most new technologies, augmented reality was born in the labs of researchers working at various institutions by identifying and approaching the various technical problems that need to be solved. These researchers reside in universities, non-profit research institutions and government-industry joint partnerships and have had a very important role in the emergence of AR. Many early-stage technologies are, by their nature, broadly enabling. Therefore, companies would not likely be able to realize all of the R&D benefits themselves if they were to invest in this research. To remain competitive, companies with limited R&D budgets must focus strictly on what is going to benefit them rather than what will be broadly enabling. Research institutions bridge the gap between high risk ideas and practical implementation.
In this post I aim to cover many of the important institutions currently conducting important research responsible for laying the groundwork for augmented reality to achieve its full potential. They are listed in alphabetical order. Please feel free to reach out to me or leave comments about additional entities that may belong on this list.
The department of Computer Science at Columbia University is part of the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science and performs research in many areas of computer graphics and computer vision. This research is supported in part by: Office of Naval Research; Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency; National Science Foundation; National Library of Medicine; New York State Science and Technology Foundation; the National Tele-Immersion Initiative; gifts from Google, IBM, Intel, Microsoft Research, MERL, Nokia Research Center, NVIDIA, VTT, Vuzix and others. The CGUI (Computer Graphics and User Interface Lab) is headed up by one of the founding fathers of AR, Steven Feiner. This lab addresses the design and development of effective 2D and 3D user interfaces for a broad range of domains and devices. Domains include urban data visualization, maintenance task explanations, collaborative games, and patient-centered clinical information systems using devices such as mobile hand-held, wrist-worn, and head-worn displays.
FORTH (Foundation for Research and Technology – Hellas)
The Institute of Computer Science (ICS) is one the six institutes of FORTH, a major national Greek research centre partly funded by the General Secretariat for Research and Technology of the Hellenic Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs. The mission of FORTH-ICS is to perform high quality basic and applied research, to promote education and training, and to contribute to the development of the Information Society, at a regional, national, and European level. The Human Computer Interaction (HCI) Laboratory of ICS-FORTH, established in 1989, is an internationally recognised centre of excellence, with accumulated experience in user interface software technologies, design methodologies, and software tools. The Computational Vision and Robotics Laboratory (CVRL) was established in 1985. The groups’ activities emphasize research and development in the areas of computer vision, computer graphics and autonomous mobile robots with “intelligent” behaviour. More specifically, the research efforts are directed towards visual perception of static and dynamic characteristics of the 3-D world (depth, shape, color, motion), object tracking, robot navigation, behaviour modelling and real-time graphics.
Fraunhofer is Europe’s largest application-oriented research organization. It is comprised of 66 Fraunhofer Institutes and independent research units, at different locations in Germany. It promotes and undertakes applied research in an international context, of direct utility to private and public enterprise and of wide benefit to society as a whole. By developing technological innovations and novel systems solutions for their customers, the Fraunhofer Institutes help to reinforce the competitive strength of the economy in their region, throughout Germany and in Europe, with particular regard for social welfare and environmental compatibility. It has a €1.9 billion annual research budget. Of this sum, €1.6 billion is generated through contract research. More than 70 percent of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft’s contract research revenue is derived from contracts with industry and from publicly financed research projects. Almost 30 percent is contributed by the German federal and Länder governments in the form of base funding. Several of the independent units are actively performing research in AR for various applications, but the IFF (Institute for Factory Operation and Automation) appears to have the greatest vested interest.
The Georgia Institute of Technology, located in Atlanta, is one of the nation’s top research universities, distinguished by its commitment to improving the human condition through advanced science and technology. The Graphics, Visualization and Usability (GVU) Center is an interdisciplinary research center that brings together people and expertise from all six Georgia Tech colleges in order to solve complex problems. The Augmented Environments Laboratory is affiliated with the GVU where it has made great strides in AR research. It is here that the open source KML/HTML Augmented Reality Mobile Architecture (KHARMA) was created which seeks to address several practical problems related to mobile AR development and delivery. They also produced the Argon browser which is an open, standards-based ecosystem for mobile augmented and mixed reality experiences that integrates smoothly with existing web infrastructures.
Institute for Computer Graphics and Vision (ICG) is the only Austrian academic group with the charter to address both Computer Vision and Computer Graphics, and is carefully nurturing a culture of Digital Visual Information Processing to resolve the artificial boundaries between computer graphics and computer vision. The research at ICG is focused on Computer Graphics, Visualization, Medical Computer Vision, Object Recognition, Object Reconstruction, Robotics, Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality.
Mission is to empower people through the invention, development, transition and commercialization of technologies that unlock the power of human intelligence and link minds globally. The goals are to: Develop and transition to industry leading edge human-computer interfaces to accelerate economic development in New Zealand; Provide multi-disciplinary project-based learning experiences for students; Act as a bridge between academia and industry. This multi-disciplinary approach to research and education facilitates an entrepreneurial climate, which fosters a wealth of innovative ideas, and leads to significant research and commercial outcomes.
LORIA (Lorraine Research Laboratory in Computer Science and its Applications)
LORIA was created in 1997. It’s mission lies in fundamental and applied research in computer sciences. LORIA is a subsidiary of INRIA, a public science and technology institution established in 1967 fully dedicated to computational sciences. Combining computer sciences with mathematics, INRIA is a collaboration amongst the main players in public and private research in France and beyond with the goal of transferring the fruits of their work to innovative companies. Within LORIA, the Magrit team carries out research in the field of computer vision with a focus on augmented reality applications.
The objective of ManuVAR is to develop an innovative technology platform and a framework to support high value manual work throughout the product lifecycle. ManuVAR will cover ergonomics, safety, work assistance, and training. It includes various people from designers to factory workers, operators, maintenance personnel, and end-users. ManuVAR consortium comprises 18 partners representing industry, research and academia. In ManuVAR, there are five synergistic application clusters in different industrial areas: terrestrial satellite assembly, assembly line design, remote maintenance of trains, maintenance of nuclear reactors, large machine assembly process design. The project coordinator is VTT, based in Finland.
MRL (Mixed Reality Lab)
The Mixed Reality Lab aims to push the boundaries of research into interactive new media technologies through the combination of technology, art, and creativity. The MRL at the University of Nottingham is a dedicated facility where computer scientists, psychologists, sociologists, engineers, architects and artists collaborate to explore the potential of ubiquitous, mobile and mixed reality technologies to shape everyday life. The MRL was first established in 1999. The laboratory is currently home to over fifty academics, research associates and PhD students who are undertaking a wide ranging programme of research into mixed reality and its applications.
NMC (New Media Consortium)
The NMC is an international community of experts in educational technology — from the practitioners who work with new technologies on campuses every day; to the visionaries who are shaping the future of learning at think tanks, labs, and research centers; to its staff and board of directors; to the advisory boards and others helping the NMC conduct cutting edge research. The role of the NMC is to help the hundreds of member universities, colleges, museums, and organizations drive innovation across their campuses. This is done by performing research that catalyzes discussion, by convening people around new ideas, and by building communities that encourage exploration and experimentation.
OARN (Ontario Augmented Reality Network)
OARN is a network of universities, private-sector developers, cultural agencies, trade associations, local government and business generators dedicated to building and expanding the Augmented Reality Applications sector.
SICS (Swedish Institute of Computer Science)
The SICS is a leading research institute for applied information and communication technology in Sweden founded in 1985 with the aim of boosting the competitive strength of Swedish industry and the quality and efficiency of Sweden’s public sector. SICS is non-profit and carries out advanced and focused research in strategic areas of computer science in close collaboration with Swedish and international industry and academia. SICS is part of Swedish ICT (Information and Communication Technology) who performs applied research, knowledge creation and innovation in both specific application areas and the generic platforms. Swedish ICT’s’ role is to collaborate with industrial partners, customers and users to develop new services and products.
TNO connects people and knowledge to create innovations that boost the sustainable competitive strength of industry and well-being of society. TNO is an independent research organization whose expertise and research make an important contribution to the competitiveness of companies and organizations, to the economy and to the quality of society as a whole. TNO’s unique position is attributable to its versatility and capacity to integrate this knowledge. Innovation with purpose is what TNO stands for. They develop knowledge not for its own sake but for practical application. To create new products that make life more pleasant and valuable and help companies innovate. To find creative answers to the questions posed by society. They work for a variety of customers: governments, the SME sector, large companies, service providers and non-governmental organizations. Working together on new knowledge, better products and clear recommendations for policy and processes.
TUM (Technische Universitat Munchen)
Technische Universität München (TUM) is one of Europe’s top universities. It is committed to excellence in research and teaching, interdisciplinary education and the active promotion of promising young scientists. The university also forges strong links with companies and scientific institutions across the world. TUM was one of the first universities in Germany to be named a University of Excellence. Moreover, TUM regularly ranks among the best European universities in international rankings. The Institute for Human-Computer Interaction within the Electrical Engineering and Information Technology department is an augmented / virtual reality laboratory that focuses on novel techniques for an intuitive and natural interaction of humans with all types of computers and computer-controlled systems and machines.
ViVERA (Virtual Competence Network for Virtual and Augmented Reality)
The ViVERA network combines ten institutes and universities’ research resources in the field of virtual and augmented reality in Germany. The aim of ViVERA is to develop practical uses for AR and VR then transfer the knowledge to industrial partners. Prototype development focuses on automotive engineering, plant engineering, shipbuilding, and medical applications. The project research, results and lessons learned is documented in a knowledge base and made available for a broad range of potential users of VR / AR technologies through a transfer network called the VDTC (Virtual Development and Training Centre). The VDTC establishes contact with the research partners in the network and establishes the knowledge trasfer.
VTT (VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland)
VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland is the biggest multi-technological applied research organization in Northern Europe. VTT provides high-end technology solutions and innovation services. VTT produces research services that enhance the international competitiveness of companies, society and other customers at the most important stages of their innovation process, and thereby creates the prerequisites for growth, employment and wellbeing. VTT promotes the realization of innovative solutions and new businesses by foreseeing already in the strategic research stage the future needs of its customers. VTT creatively combines its multidisciplinary expertise with the know-how of its partners. VTT also exploits global networking and the basic research results of universities in its services. VTT is a part of the Finnish innovation system under the domain of the Ministry of Employment and the Economy. VTT is a not-for-profit organization.