Augmented Reality Tee Shirt: It Could Be So Much More

Curiscope rolled out a Kickstarter for “Virtuali-tee”, a Tee shirt with Augmented Reality that let’s you see “into” the body of the wearer. This is surely a great effect, and kind of cool.

For me, this is a blast for the past: I was doing this stuff at least five years ago, and Sensei Alan Craig has done exactly this app several years ago. If anything, I’m still shocked that these AR Tees aren’t all over the place by now. It’s such a natural and straightforward application to build.

Knowing this technology as well as I do, I have to cringe at some of the claims the company makes. They suggest that this is “an awesome learning experience”, whatever that means. It may be “awesome”, but I don’t know about “learning”.

CEO Ed Barton is quoted by Lee Moran in The Huffington Post to claim “Presented as the best way to learn about the body, and the future of schools, people suddenly get the product,” It is not “a gimmick because it really is a better way to learn.” A better way?  How better?

I don’t see any hint of research or evidence that this shirt has any particular educational value. Call me Mr. Grumpy, but you can’t just assert that something is a valuable learning tool, you have to actually prove it. (From what I know of the research, the case is far from clear cut. See Understanding Augmented Reality [1] )

Moving beyond grumpiness, this initial app leaves much to be desired. While you want to imagine that this is a “3D X-ray”, it is not actually showing your own or anyone’s real anatomy. It is actually an artistic rendition of generic organs, and it is basically a 3D movie*. (It will be a few years, but I’m sure that we’ll be viewing your actually anatomy projected into our body pretty soon.)

*Correction (15 March 2016: It was pointed out to me that “3D movie” is technically wrong or at least misleading. The graphics are a view of a 3D model, a virtual world.  By “movie” I meant to indicate that it is a static, synthetic image, rather than a real time 0r any kind of visualization of your actual body.

Given that the app is projecting a fantasy world into your body, why not make it more interesting? Why can’t I have little mice or unicorns peeking out? Or maybe my sweetie’s face should be inscribed on my throbbing heart?  🙂

C’mon, people, use some imagination!

I would also like to see an app that does more than just play a movie. Let’s make the app recognize individual Tee-shirts (registered to particular people), and detect who is look at it (app is registered to another user). Then customize the projection. When I look at my honey, I see how much she loves me, and vice versa. Our hearts beat as one, my heart flies out and orbits her, etc.

Now that would be cool!

Curiscope’s shirt is cool, though not as cool as they would like to claim. It’s a start, but there is so much more that could be done.


  1. Alan B. Craig., Understanding Augmented Reality: Concepts and Applications, San Francisco, Morgan Kaufman, 2013.

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