Notes on Augmented Reality

Web 2.0 completely changed the way we use the internet, the reader became the contributor and the conversation became as relevant as the information.  Next the mobile web happened which resulted in two major changes, the internet broke free from the PC screen and no longer could the website be thought of as just something existing on a 1028 screen, neither was the internet something that existed just on your PC, it could now be in your pocket and with you at all times.  If the hype is true, Web Squared and Augmented reality have the potential to take everything to the next level, first of all my understading of these two terms and then what I think it may change –

What do the terms mean?

Web squared is a vision of an internet of “things” all feeding real time information to the internet.  The “things” could be any sort of technology that can add information to the web, so rather than being the collective intelligence of all of us (web 2.0) it would become the collective intelligence of everything.  Real time sensors providing information for the web to learn, whereas in Web 2.0 you would tell twitter what you were thinking, in web squared your thermometer would tell the internet how warm it is in your house.  Every transaction linked to an internet technology would become a vote on something, all of this information would feed into knowledge of everything.  If you have time it’s worth reading the white paper –
http://www.web2summit.com/web2009/public/schedule/detail/10194

Augmented reality is where layers of information are merged from the virtual world and the real world, information is delivered to the user triggered by information from the real world (sounds, positioning, images that are detected on the augmented reality device).  Great examples are browsers such as Wikitude of Cyclopedia on the iPhone where you can view the world via the camera and have information placed on the screen about your surroundings.  Your first experience of augmented reality may have been whilst watching Terminator 2 in the early scene where he scans his surroundings and information is overlayed onto his vision. At the time that was exciting science fiction but it is becoming reality.  This short video  on Layar i found on youtube should give you an idea on what it’s about –

It shouldn’t be confused with virtual reality, virtual reality exists within a computer whereas augmented reality exists in the real world with the virtual world mapped on in layers.

The Technolology

Advancements in mobile phone technology are a great enabler of these ideas, no longer is a phone a phone with a texting ability.  A smart phone now has a camera (an eye), a positioning system, a microphone (ears), compass and motion sensor as well as being a phone, so lots of potential for different types of information from the real world.  It won’t all be from phones though, for the web squared idea to really come out it’s looking at all technologies being linked ot the internet inlcuding temperature gauges, scientific sensors, cameras, GPS systems, bar code readers and many more.

Viewing augmented reality can be typically via mobile phone screens, PC screens, large display stand screens and special glasses, maybe one day it will be via contact lenses.  This is a really neat video from Nokia on how we may one day browse the web

(I really recommend spending 3 minutes watching this!)

What might it change?

So, how will these be of value, and how will they change the way we do business?  If you viewed the nokia video above you are probably already imagining!  To answer that I guess you have to consider what information have you got that can be published from anchors in the real world.  Think about geographical information, image recognition, sounds, what exists in the real world that could be enhanced with published information.  The word “enhanced” is important, unless it adds something new and useful to an existing experience it’s unlikely to be worth the time and investment.

I can’t guarantee these are currently possible to tell you how to go about it, but here are some immediate thoughts on when published information could in the future be delivered to a customer via a potential real world trigger.

  • Via an audio, visual or geo trigger allowing audiences at a live show to share their photographs at the show
  • Walking past a conference poster and downloading the paper or abstract to your phone.
  • Seeing a book poster, viewing it with your phones camera and reading the first chapter on your phone.
  • Pointing a camera at a picture of a chemical structure and getting further information on the structure, links to reference works, being able to move the structure in a 3D space
  • Visiting a historical location and the option of receiving published information, text, graphics or sound, hearing the vikings songs as you visit a landmark.
  • Receiving customer reviews of restaurants as you walk past them.
  • Playing a enhanced reality roll play game and viewing a dragon walking in your home town.
  • Putting a scientific journal in front of a camera and being taken direct to supplementary information and videos

What are we seeing so far in the world of augmented reality –

Where possible here I’ve looked for youtube videos to show the technologies –

Shopping experiences in the real world could be enhanced.  Tesco’s app allow you to get product information by taking a picture of a label, and then shop for it.  You can even search for stores and browse what they have in stock with comprehensive information on where to find your items.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WT7X_M7pvgo

Enhanced published information, star charts are available via StarChart, a neat iPhone app that plots the stars in the sky as you move the phone around.

Google Mobile Search – this app detects the movement of you lifting the phone to talk into it, listens to your voice and then presents search results. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GQ3Glr5Ff28

Allowing fans of the band to be part of a music video – John Mayer last year did just that, holding a symbol to the webcam and then appearing you appear as an extra in the video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NO65JG_1rlI&feature=related

Changes to books – the Future is Wild book with the ability to view 3D annimations by moving the book in front of a camera
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GjqpPWja-PY

Enhanced business cards, just view this video to see how the future of the business card could look http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5qoucBw60jM

Enhancing the working professionals ability to carry out operaions, there is a great video here of how in the future a BMW car could be fixed with augmented reality: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4UA_PgBpiws& This video I belive shows the potential of augmented reality and is well worth a watch.  Could that be taken further with health care using x-rays within operations?

Enhanced magazines – Esquire have a great example video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LGwHQwgBzSI&

Browsers such as Layar, Cyclopedia and Wikitude give you geographic information about where you are, overlaying the images from the camera with published information.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Cv6cJA2WgA&

If this is how the future will get information how do we publish information to this space.  The way we generate, receive and publish information is changing, and as we become more cyborg how should information be published to this new space?

Another big question to ask is if the app that you devise should be charged for, or given away free to promote custom in other ways.  Something like StarChart cost a pound or so, and it’s a neat stand alone app, if the application is aimed at directing customers towards other pay-for services it’s probably worth giving it away free.

I think there are challenges ahead and the technology still has a way to go.  Anyone who has used one of the augmented browsers may have found that they show little consideration for walls and buildings and provide information based more on how the crow flies rather than how you can walk there.  It also largely relies on smart phones with broadband connections which although are becoming affordable still aren’t cheap.  But, it’s early days, watch the video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q_xF8ujj7ko and I’m sure you’ll agree very exciting times are ahead!

Some more great reading on augmented reality –

Augmented Planet : http://www.augmentedplanet.com/

How Stuff Works, Augmented Reality : http://computer.howstuffworks.com/augmented-reality.htm

Augmented Reality Business Models: http://www.personalizemedia.com/16-top-augmented-reality-business-models/

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One thought on “Notes on Augmented Reality

  1. Great post. I think the Nokia video could go so much further though. The only reply she could give TWICE was an emoticon? It would be easy to use voice translation to speak a reply and have it sent as a message. Simple…VOIP messages from Vonage come like that to my inbox already. The message could be sent as a .WAV file or other variant or translated to text. It’s hardly a cutting edge view of the future really from them???

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