What’s the big fuss about Augmented Reality?

A while back my boss showed me an application on his phone that gave a view (using the camera) of the physical space around us and where in that space people were tweeting from. I’m not a gadget person (he is!) but I have to say I was impressed. It does look amazing.

There is more about this particular app (Twittaround) on the ReadWriteWeb site and you can view a YouTube video of it in action.

But you might ask, as many people have done, what’s the point? Is it just all fluff and no substance?

What is it?

Augmented reality (AR) is a term for a “live direct or indirect view of a physical real-world environment whose elements are merged with (or augmented by) virtual computer-generated imagery – creating a mixed reality.”

As How stuff works puts it, it is a way to “pull graphics out of your television screen or computer display and integrate them into real-world environments“.

So what can we use it for?

Here are some of the current thoughts on what it could be used for:

Handheld Augmented Reality by Jamais Cascio

Web Browsers
Some believe that AR is likely to be where the Web browser ends up. Last week I watched Age of Stupid for the first time (for those unfamiliar with the plot it’s an appeal for humans to avoid knowingly destroying the earth (by our CO2 emissions) delivered from the vantage-point of 2055). The ‘future archive’ browser is very AR and it is quite possible that this will be the way we go.
Practising tasks
AR could help with practise real world tasks virtually. This could be really useful in the fields of medicine, manufacturing and engineering and could potentially save organisations a fortune. This also has lots of implications for the education sector.
Orientation Information
Integrating AR into glasses or head-mounted displays (HMDs) makes it possible to walk down the street and be bombarded with informative graphics at every step. This could have a huge impact on maps, tracking and orientation information. The military are probably one of the biggest users of AR at the moment, AR systems can provide troops with vital information about their surroundings and much more.
The possibilities are endless…
Phone Apps
Phone apps is where AR is likely to hit the mainstream. New apps are appearing daily. Some of the most popular so far are nearest tube (which finds you your nearest tube station!), face recognition, music apps (that change depending on your environment) and travel guide apps (which show you info on where ever you are).

People are still a little unsure how AR is going to take off, but there’s no doubt it will. It is also likely to make a big difference to those working while on the move. For example this phone app allows users to locate venues that enable remote working around London. The creators say it was based on 200 information gathering visits to the capital and provides everything from the quality of the wi-fi signal available to the number plug points.

Now that sounds very useful!


2 thoughts on “What’s the big fuss about Augmented Reality?

  1. Layers of historical information would be good, too, so that you could see photos of how a street used to look, or background details on particular buildings (or people associated with those buildings: extensions of heritage plaque details, perhaps).

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