Augmented Reality

After attending a Flash developers’ night in London last week, and hearing James Alliban give a great speech about Augmented Reality, I am even more excited about this burgeoning technology.

What is Augmented Reality?
If you don’t know what it is, it is probably easier to show you than tell you. See below for some links. I assume most of you know what Virtual Reality is? It’s when you wear one of those lovely headsets and get fully immersed in a computer generated environment. I also assume you know what actual reality is? If not then you probably aren’t reading this and are bouncing off the walls in some mental hospital. Well, Augmented Reality is somewhere in between. It is actual reality with enhanced, overlaid graphics. A bit like The Terminator when he scans people and gets information about them.

What do I need to use it?
There are some very advanced ways to view Augmented Reality (AR) such as with headsets or even haptic interfaces, but at the moment the two main publicly available ways to use it are via a phone such as an iPhone or an Android device. The other way is via a webcam.

Example – Phone – Nearest Tube
When using a phone it allows to you wander around and essentially have a window into another world, receiving overlaid graphics about your surroundings. Acrossair’s app lets you walk around London and easily find the nearest Tube station.

Example – Webcam – N-Dubz
With a webcam version it’s much more about entertainment or new products on your deskstop or in the palm of your hand, because you’re not walking around. One example is that if you hold the latest N-Dubz CD inlay up to a webcam you suddenly see the band perform literally in the palm of your hand.

What potential uses are there for it?
How good is your imagination? Double it and add 1. Below are some great examples including automotive design and fashion. Other things I can think of include going to a haunted castle and when you hold up your phone it displays ghosts in front of you (a window into another world), a treasure hunt round a city where the clues are only visible in front of you through an Augmented Reality device, or perhaps going to Ground Zero in New York and seeing what the Twin Towers actually looked like when they were still standing. Needless to say there are already tremendous uses for this technology in the medical, construction and teaching professions.

Is it the death of the webpage?
No, but I think that many things which are currently done on websites will start switching to devices like this.

Have you got any other examples to blow my mind?
Of course…

iQ Toyota
GE Smart Grid
Red Bulletin
Ray Ban
Julian Perretta ‘Ride My Star’
Papervision wormhole
5 Gum Music Mixer
Tobi Virtual Dressing Room
AKQA Virtual Box

Watch this space…