Living in an Augmented Reality

There’s an unusual technology which is now really starting to become a powerful force, it’s name: Augmented Reality.

Now there’ll be some people who’ve yet to hear about the idea of augmented reality, so I’ll try and explain it. By using a combination of camera, location sensors and gyroscopes, electronic devices (normally mobile) can display information in real time, relating to what you are looking at. For example, you could look for restaurants in your area. An augmented reality app could show you what direction they are in and how far away they are on a screen showing what’s really in front of you. If that sounds a little confusing, see the picture below which shows you some of the nearest restaurants to me, displayed in Augmented Reality.

So what we can see here is the restaurants names, where they are and a little info about them, displayed on the background of my kitchen!

And it’s not just restaurants of course! There are several apps out there with Augmented Reality options (Acrossair, Layar, Around Me and WikiTude to name a few) and they can all offer you different features. Wikitude, for example, will find you interesting things from Wikipedia that are nearby. Acrossair has an option to see nearby tweets and where they were tagged. You can see pictures of local landmarks. You can even use augmented reality to find out where you parked the car!

I think you’ll agree that these augmented reality apps are pretty magic, but how helpful can they actually be? It’s all very well looking at the clever technology, displaying things that aren’t really there, but will this ever enter the mainstream?

Some companies in Japan believe so, in fact last week saw the launch of a brand new piece of Augmented Reality tech. The lightweight Augmented Reality glasses!

Now these kinds of specs have been attempted before, but have been quite cumbersome and uncomfortable to wear. However, the new glasses from Olympus and NTT Docomo look exactly like normal specs, well almost. There’s a small projector which provides the information for you to see in front of your eyes as you move your head. The technology certainly is very impressive and could breathe new life into the who augmented reality idea (rather than having to hold up your smartphone and move it around to enjoy the experience).

This idea will sell, if for nothing else then for the sheer ‘wow’ effect when people just use it. I do think the technology is useful and have enjoyed using these apps on my iPhone, but to be fair, sometimes it’s just easier to use a traditional map!

I’ll leave you by mentioning one more app (I’m going app-mad right now!) which uses a kind of Augmented Reality to search the web. I speak of the Google Goggles. This has been around for Android users for a while, but has only recently creeped onto the iPhone. This feature is built into the Google app and works by taking pictures. The goggles will then identify what is in the picture and search Google for it. The app works best with text and logos, but can identify locations and people also (it managed to work out what my ride photo of the flume at Alton Towers was!). And if that’s not enough, it’ll also read and translate text!

It’s not only fun but very useful and is right now my favourite app.

Google have once again changed the way we search the web, the only question is what on earth they will think of next!

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