Magic is itself a kind of augmented reality, a willing suspension of disbelief as we watch what we know is a blend between what we’re seeing and what we simply think we’re seeing. We know it’s not all physically happening, but the act of seeing it is enough. So it’s fitting that someone would try to blend magic and augmented reality. The challenge is flirting with a taboo of the digital age: getting people to accept that digital magic can still be magical, and not just empty illusion.

Marco Tempest is a rare character who combines magic and technology. He’s an unabashed showman in the old mold: you know it’s a show, and you know he’s selling what he’s doing. He also has some terrific ideas, and he knows his tech. Marco’s sends us his latest augmented reality, which he says is entirely real-time.

And here comes the reversal of the usual magic trick. In the pre-digital age, you’d keep the illusion alive by sharing as little as possible. Explain the tools, and the trick may be ruined. But in the post-modern, post-digital world of sharing and open source, it’s the reverse. You actually need to share something in order to have credibility. (My guess is that this could be the trend for far more than just magic – look at the musician and visualist worlds.)

Marco writes:

this is 100% real-time stuff – No post-processing. Programmed In C++ with OpenFrameworks, OpenCV, ARToolkitPlus, MacCam and other Open Source goodies…

Being the fan of software pr0n that I am, I thoroughly enjoy the screenshots, which show off the OpenFrameWorks setup [site | cdmo tag]. Incidentally, you can use OpenCV not only with C++, but Java/Processing, as well – check out our tutorial. And Bryan Chung has been working on a version of the ARToolkit library for Processing, too. That’s not to take away from OFW – it’s a really powerful environment, and there remain advantages on the C side.

Here’s what it looks like behind the magic:

 More screenshots