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Augmented reality goes mainstream

July 27, 2009

To date, most augmented reality applications have been centered on immersive entertainment experiences. In short, they are just cool to play with. My first experience with it was GE Smart Grid site. It showed off the power of GE renewable technology by creating a hologram of windmills through the use of a Webcam and paper printouts. It generated a lot of buzz in the digital marketing world. And no one can deny that it was cool. But does this technology have the power to move beyond, “Wow, that’s neat.” To “Wow, that’s practical”?

The last thing I can [recall] getting this much hype is Second Life,” said Matt Szymczyk, CEO of Zugara, a Los Angeles-area digital agency. “But I think there will be more practical uses to this.” And it is his firm that seems to be taking one of the first steps toward the practical application of this futuristic technology. They have created a Webcam Social Shopper app that lets consumers “try on” clothing via webcams. It’s got a social twist of course, encouraging consumers to share their outfits and experience with friends via Facebook and the like. The application is still in alpha stage, but looks like it has great potential. As if my online shopping habit needed any more fodder….

Social Shopper


The biggest opportunity space for augmented reality seems to be in the mobile space. One of the apps closest to going live was created by Acrossair. They have developed an app that uses augmented reality to show Londoners where the nearest tube station is. When you load the app, holding it flat, all 13 lines of the London underground are displayed in colored arrows. By tilting the phone upwards, you will see the nearest stations, including what direction they are from your current location, how many miles away they are and what tube lines they are on. If you continue to tilt the phone upwards, you will see stations further away, as stacked icons. As a former London resident who never knew which way the nearest tube stop was, this app would be the first on my list, if I still lived there. And if I had an iPhone. And if I had money.


Tube App

According to the Apple Insider, Apple promises that its iPhone 3.1 release will be the first to officially support augmented reality apps. The augmented reality apps need the support of the phone’s a digital compass, GPS and auto-focus camera. All three functions will be used to produce graphical information data in real-time on the touchscreen while the camera is in live video mode. This update is expected to come out in September, and the London tube app is the first on the list for approval.  The biggest barrier right now to augmented reality going mainstream in the mobile category seems to be battery life. The video component sucks the life out of iPhones, making it hard for consumers to use the cool and practical augmented reality apps.

Stay tuned. This is bound to be interesting.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Crystal permalink*
    August 12, 2009 8:09 pm

    Terrific post. Mike posted some links to additional augmented reality experiences worth checking out on Deep Dive.

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