Will augmented reality improve city dwellers lives’ ?
Shareable | Elsa Sidawy | 12.20.10
Ten years from now, your everyday environment will be completely different. Little will have changed physically beyond your access to some new hardware and some extremely subtle (possibly invisible) changes in physical appearance to the manufactured objects around you. But you’ll be able to walk up to a restaurant, point a device at it, and instantly see commentary and reviews about it. You’ll be able to point the same device at a famous monument whose name you don’t know and pull up its entire history.
Actually, you can do all that stuff now with a smart phone and the right app.
But in ten years, it’ll be much cooler. You’ll be able to look at a person and run facial recognition software almost instantly, other people’s personal area social networks will be perceptible, and walking directions will show up in your field of vision as a red line extending outward from your feet.
All of this becomes true because of augmented reality, an emerging technology that overlays our perceptions of the real world with information from computers. AR does this through intermediating devices, most commonly smart phones. Smart phones are the preferred hardware because they bring together all of the capabilities commonly used by AR apps: locative technologies like GPS, cameras, good resolution displays, sufficient computing power to perform analysis on the input from the first three, and internet connectivity.
As a result, augmented reality is suddenly making the leap from science fiction to the arsenals of ad agencies and smart phone developers.
1. Directory Apps
In the realm of directory apps, Layar and Superpages are two of the more impressive current offerings. Both bear a superficial resemblance to familiar web-based map applications at first glance. You search for a location, and you get back a list of hits on a two-dimensional map – as long as you’re holding the device roughly level to the ground. Point it at the air in front of you, though, and your view changes. You’re now looking through your camera at the street in front of you. A minimap shows which way you’re pointing, along with the direction you need to be facing to see your chosen search term. The application uses information about your position and the direction you’re facing to label buildings on the street around you in this view.
While Superpages was built solely as an AR interface to a directory application, Layar, with the release of Layar 3.0, has begun to offer additional, user-created augspace content such as 3D art and information about local architecture.
2. Travel Guides
Wikitude World Browser uses a similar process of gathering positional information and then showing a little window with information on what you’re facing, but World Browser’s function is to be a travel guide. Point your phone at the Taj Mahal or Big Ben, and you’ll get back a little blurb about it.
3. Recognize & Search
Google Goggles doesn’t have quite the same quality of instantly overlaying your surroundings with labels, but it illustrates another capability to which good AR apps must aspire: it runs image recognition on things at which you point it. So far, I’ve mostly used Goggles on wine bottles. I don’t know wine terribly well, but Goggles can look at a wine bottle for me and run a search on what it sees. The algorithm still needs some work, as it tends to get the vintner right, but not the specific variety and year. Still, pretty cool, and it’s much more accurate if you point it at a book cover.
In a similar vein, TAT Augmented ID mashes up Polar Rose’s facial recognition technology (originally implemented as an add-on to Flickr) to perform facial recognition on photos. True AR facial recognition - the kind that will enable us to never forget the name that goes with a face - is still in the future.
AR has also produced some impressive results in gaming. Ghost hunting games, where an AR ghost is overlaid on your camera view for you to chase down and capture (by actually running after it!) have popped up for the Nintendo DSi (Ghostwire) and Android (SpecTrek). My first AR-related accident occurred during a spirited session of SpecTrek on my Android phone. I was chasing down an AR spectre on the Rose Kennedy Greenway when I stepped in a pile of something awful. Not everyone in Boston is terribly conscientious about cleaning up after their dogs, I’m afraid.
- Read the original article by Jack Graham on Shareable
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