Cave paintings are proof that prehistoric people used to draw pictures; even though we may never truly know the reasons behind them, we can speculate it was a form of communication. It might look primitive to us, but for them a cave wall full of drawings must've been a mind-blowing experience. Unlike us, they didn't live in a world of pictures.
It’s thought that cave paintings might have had a religious purpose. That’s certainly a common theme in art. For medieval commoners, who couldn’t read or understand Latin, church paintings of biblical stories might’ve been the only understandable connection to the divine. Maybe those were the only pictures they ever saw.
The medieval peasant might have seen a painting of a saint as an object of worship. It was the saint, rather than a mere representation. Later renaissance art was different: paintings became more like windows to fantasy worlds one could peek through. You could stand before one, it had the illusion of depth and realism and you could imagine yourself there. The artists employed perspectiva artificialis – a technique of drawing line perspective. Italian renaissance figure Filippo Brunelleschi is one of those credited with inventing the rules of perspective.
Nowadays an individual picture has experienced inflation of significance from those times. Just a little while ago a single photograph could define an entire historical event, but today we have the tools to generate endless streams of them. You can find more pictures online than anyone cares to look at.
New technology does indeed make things increasingly available. It seems that historically pictures have been a luxury reserved for the churches and the elite as an embodiment of worldly power. Now the means to enjoy and create them are available to anyone. Our illusion of depth and realism is more intricate than they had during the Renaissance. We’ve followed Brunelleschi’s thought experiment about perspective far enough to have linear algebra that projects 3D on an image plane inside tiny chips. Our latest illusion is called AR - augmented reality, where computer graphics are added on a view of the real world.
Latest advances in democratizing AR include Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore. They are platforms for developing AR experiences with one hard part taken care of. Unity is another believer in bringing 3D development within everyone’s reach. It’s now tempting to predict a new renaissance – one where everyone is invited.
Social media apps have already had augmented reality effects for a while now. For Internet giants, user-authored AR content is part of tomorrow’s online experience like photos and videos are today. Right now we are somewhere on the verge of a killer app for AR, and it’s easier than ever to innovate.
Umbra’s contribution to this is a platform for optimizing and delivering 3D and AR content with a push of a button. A major use case is architectural visualization. In some sense we have come full circle from the beginnings of perspective in the 15th century: Brunelleschi was an architect, known for the dome on Florence Cathedral.
So there you have it. Linear algebra buzzes inside tiny microprocessors. There are lenses and sensors to capture images of the world. There are CPUs, GPUs, motion sensors, and software.
And AR that belongs to everyone.
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