b<>com takes the lead in a global work group about augmented reality

On December 4, ETSI announced the creation of a new Industry Specifications Group - named ISG ARF - that aims to develop an interoperability framework for augmented reality applications. Muriel Deschanel, who leads Hypermedia business development at b<>com and chairs the group, talks to us about ISG ARF's ambitions and challenges.

Tell us about the work group and its missions

Augmented Reality (AR) is the ability to mix in real time spatially-registered digital content with the real world. It's a very promising field with market forecasts as high as €80 billion by late 2021. It affects numerous business sectors, like industry 4.0, smart cities, mobility, sales, and health care. This means there are major differences in the scale involved, ranging from a few millimeters to kilometers, in the level of luminosity, usage can be indoor or outdoor, and in the methods of localization used to realistically place the digital object within the physical world. But it's also possible to identify a number of common components that offer features such as finding the localization of the capture device or objects in the scene in order to recalibrate the digital content with the real world, 3D reconstruction, and scene analysis.

ETSI's ISG ARF group will strive to define a framework representing the main components of an augmented reality application and interfaces for which an interoperability need has been identified. This will make it possible to mix and match technology bricks from different suppliers. The group aims to synchronize the standardization efforts already begun for AR and will rely on numerous existing standards. Interoperability will therefore keep the market from fragmenting, and will encourage the technology's success by enabling the development of highly effective bricks.

What does your role as Chair consist of?

The role of chair consists of leading the workgroup, which includes a role similar to a project manager when it comes to defining the scope of work, deliverables, deadlines, holding meetings, and ensuring that the work is moving along well. This also means a big dose of diplomacy because you need to reach decisions by consensus, which requires understanding the challenges for each participating member and advance preparation in order to avoid conflicts. When they do crop up, it's up to the chair to master the art of the coffee break! The ETSI also makes it possible to employ voting when a decision cannot be made by consensus. At the first meeting, which was held at Sophia Antipolis, I made sure that the 20 participants, some of whom had called in by phone, all had the chance to speak.

Is French-European collaboration showcased within this group?

It is indeed. Ralf Schäfer of Fraunhofer HHI was named vice chair of ISG ARF. We have already had the opportunity to collaborate with Fraunhofer experts multiple times. Last September at the Amsterdam IBC, b<>com and Fraunhofer IIS presented a complete spatial audio production line using HOA (Higher Order Ambisonics) format and MPEG-H Audio, an international standard for immersive sound.

What are the next steps?

The ISG ARF (Augmented Reality Framework) group has launched three work modules: Writing a report on the state of the art in relevant standards for AR applications, producing a report on industrial use cases, and specifying a framework for identifying the main components of any AR system and the interfaces where interoperability is desired.

A workshop open to everyone is being held on February 1 in Berlin at the offices of Fraunhofer HHI. A presentation of our goals and our first working modules will be shared by ISG ARF's leadership. Presentations on feedback from pilot projects, use cases, and discussions about interfacing needs between solutions from different suppliers will also be on the agenda.

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