Marco Tempest tells the story of magic at TED, with Kinect-powered augmented reality
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Like the iPod illusion (embedded at the bottom of the story), Tempest combines sleight of hand and digital computers to create a very satisfying performance — but this time he goes one step further and weaves 3D augmented reality into the mix. On the hardware-side, Tempest simply uses an HD video camera and Microsoft’s Kinect, but the software — bit that actually produces the illusion — is really quite complex.
Tempest, working with two software development houses, Onformative and Checksum5, used VVVV to script the six-minute magic trick. VVVV is a hybrid programming environment that allows you to mash together video clips, real-time special effects, and the input from external devices. In “A magical tale,” every special effect is rendered in real time using a desktop PC — the particle effects, the face tracking (and re-mapping), and digital compositing (such as the big, 3D globe that Tempest steps inside); they’re all reactive to Tempest’s movements. The end result is impressive, if not quite as smooth or magical as the iPod/iPhone trick. Embedded below is a “making of” video that illustrates the technology behind the illusion.
Ultimately, Tempest says that “A magic tale” is more about engaging an audience than bona fide illusion. “Magic is a unique tool for pre-visualization,” he says. Instead of a magic trick with sleight of hand, the subject matter could instead be a video game, an interactive and interesting way to teach kids otherwise dull subjects, or even an augmented reality face-to-face Skype chat. It won’t be long until Kinect-like sensors are built into laptops and smartphones, don’t forget.