Tuesday, August 17, 2010

I'm optimistic about AR

credit: jntolva
Long time between drinks, I know, but I've now forced myself to get on with blogging about something that has been nagging at me for weeks.

Augmented Reality. There I said it. I've said it before too, and I'll say it again and again.

I want to keep saying it because I was very disheartened when watching this video by recruiter La Volta in which many of Australia's leading digital figures deride augmented reality (AR) as a gimmick or fad. Summed up, I think this is un-imaginative.

Sure, if you're trying to create a snappy campaign for the latest Hollywood blockbuster the ideas to hook an AR app into the campaign will run dry pretty quickly. But if that's all you're thinking about when discussing AR, then you've kinda missed the point altogether.

AR provides a very real tangible layer between the physical world, its objects and locations, and the meta-world with its information and vast possibilities. Taking these meta topics, let's look at AR again.

Objects, information and vast possibilities
Getting further information regarding real-world objects is now within the capacity of AR. An example being the Metaio museum app, without needed to create those odd black and white objects, AR apps can now recognise detailed images such as paintings and overlay or direct you to web-links with info on that painting. The uniqueness of objects in the real-world shows us that AR might even be an alternative to QR codes in non-logistical industries.

On the vast possibilities end of the spectrum you have bright sparks thinking up uses such as the US Postal Service virtual box simulator. For real-world objects it just goes to show that AR can have tangible and practical applications, you just need a real-world problem to solve and a bit of creativity.

Location, information and vast possibilities
Just like objects, places have info we need to know about too, so it comes as no surprise that two of Australia's largest banks have released AR property-finder apps. Both Commonwealth Bank and St.George Bank now let you see real-estate information in situ.

More practicable, are examples such as the one pointed to me by Pete Williams by Open Australia Foundation. Called PlanningAlerts.org.au, this AR layer takes local council planning permits (high-rise apartments, anyone?) and overlays the information in the real-world. Used in conjunction with one of the property-finder apps, I can see a really good case forming for AR in what is one of our biggest lifetime purchasing decisions.

Going down the vast possibilities path but sticking with the home, GE has created an AR app that let's you form the mood of your home using lighting but without needing to spend a cent on light-bulbs until you've got it just right. Using the GE Moodcam you can take a photo of a home location and modify the lighting quality until it's right, then the app will point you in the right direction as to which lights will get you in that mood.


Australian's are so good at creative problem-solving so I am sure that any cynicism towards AR will pass as soon as the right problem is found - much like the examples above. I'm really optimistic about AR, I hope that the Australian digital industry will jump on board too.

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