Oct 22, 2012

Mobile Augmented Reality Connects Users With the Digital World

Merging the digital world with the real world has been a fascination of developers and major manufactures in recent years. Augmented Reality (AR) is implementing a layer of virtual objects, usually graphical elements, over the real world. Unlike virtual reality, which replaces the entire environment with a virtual one, AR mixes only elements of the real world with virtual ones. Commercially, the idea set forth by developers at this point is to give the end user the functionality of a review app through the usability of a smart phone camera.

The success of widespread use of AR within the mobile sphere will undoubtedly be due to widely popular mobile apps that have successfully enabled the average mobile user to have access to insightful consumer base information and reviews. Overlapping these peer reviews with the tangible storefront, as seen through your smart phone camera, is referred to as GPS based AR.

A second type of AR associated not only with mobile but also as a business tool is called computer vision. This requires the end user to scan a logo or embedded code or simply walk by a motion sensor. A premier example of this is Ikea’s 2013 catalogue. By downloading Ikea’s mobile app, people can interact with the catalogue by uncovering videos, designer profiles and home designs.

During the London Olympic games, augmented reality collided with the masses as virtual British athletes gave tours and introductions in a Holiday Inn, creating the world’s first augmented reality hotel. Among other things, a virtual Shanaze Reade, a four time BMX World Champion, preformed tricks in the lobby while world-class windsurfer Nick Dempsy, preformed tricks on the bed of a hotel guest room.

For inbound world travelers at the London games, the British newspaper The Sun published an interactive poster of the Olympic Park that when scanned with a mobile app, came to life as a 3D model with specific information on where to go and what to see.

As smart phones get smarter, so will the use of AR. The technology to physically interact with AR has already been pioneered and is actually being promoted as open source software (see SixthSense technology) via the best and brightest at MIT. The question then becomes that in a society that is already plugged in 24/7, what is going to happen when what we are plugged into actually becomes the realm we live in? 

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