One of the most exciting emerging technologies out there is Augmented Reality (AR). While the term has been around since approximately 1990, the technology is only really beginning to take off now for consumer uses.
In augmented reality, you layer computer-generated information over real world physical environment. This computer generated imagery is seen through special eye wear such as contacts, glasses, monocles, or perhaps even projected as a 3-D image display in front off you.
With the overlay of computer information, important context can be added to everyday content that you are sensing. This takes place when names and other information are layered over people, places, and things to give them meaning and greater value to us.
Augmented reality is really a form of mashups, where information is combined (i.e. content aggregration) from multiple sources to create a higher order of information with enhanced end-user value.
In AR, multiple layers of information can be available and users can switch between them easily at the press of a button, swipe of a screen, or even a verbal command.
Fast Company, November 2009, provides some modern day examples of how this AR technology is being used:
Yelp’s iPhone App—“Let’s viewers point there phone down a street and get Yelp star ratings for merchants.”
Trulia for Android—“The real-estate search site user Layar’s Reality Browser to overlay listings on top of a Google phone’s camera view. Scan a neighborhood’s available properties and even connect to realtors.”
TAT’s Augmented ID— “Point your Android phone at a long-lost acquaintance for his Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube activity.”
Michael Zollner, an AR researcher, puts it this way: “We have a vast amount of data on the Web, but today we see it on a flat screen. It’s only a small step to see all of it superimposed on our lives.”
Maarteen Lens-FitzGerald, a cofounder of Layar, said: “As the technology improves, AR apps will be able to recognize faces and physical objects [i.e. facial and object recognition] and render detailed 3-D animation sequences.”
According to Fast Company, it will be like having “Terminator eyes,” that see everything, but with all the information about it in real time running over or alongside the image.
AR has been in use for fighter pilots and museum exhibits and trade shows for a number of years, but with the explosive growth of the data available on the Internet, mobile communication devices, and wireless technology, we now have a much greater capability to superimpose data on everything, everywhere.
The need to “get online” and “look things up” will soon be supplanted by the real time linkage of information and imagery. We will soon be walking around in a combined real and virtual reality, rather than coming home from the real world and sitting down at a computer to enter a virtual world. The demarcation will disappear to a great extent.
Augmented reality will bring us to a new level of efficiency and effectiveness in using information to act faster, smarter, and more decisively in all our daily activities personally and professionally and in matters of commerce and war.
With AR, we will never see things the same way again!