3 April 2011

IDEAS INSIDE: Augmented Reality

This is not a tech blog but who can resist Virtual or Augmented Reality?

I have seen some interesting things lately, lets take a look.

I would have bought one of the AR flyers last week but it wouldn't fit in my baggage - you see, in the last 3 weeks I have been to New Delhi, Bangalore, Washington DC, Norfolk VA, Ottawa, Stockholm and Copenhagen. This is a heavy schedule even for me but my bags are full! Got it!

These are some VR goggles from a company called Vizux, I first started looking at their equipment in late 2008. You can find them at www.vizux.com. Nothing really all that special about these except that the price is coming down significantly and the technology is improving. They also make versions for the military that project a style of 'head up' display through one eyepiece.

Then the really exciting part - the AR or Augmented Reality. This is where you impose visualization of information over a real image of the world. In the case of these glasses, the AR version shows you what is in front of you (using a camera or just by being see through) and then projects information on top of it. Here is an augmented reality business card so you can see what I mean.

Here are some examples of people experimenting with the AR. A business card demonstration, a cityscape and a HUD for a vehicle.

Some other interesting things of note. Recently a company called AR Drone Flyers released a UAV (unmanned Aerial Vehicle) that can be controlled from your iPhone or iPad. The drone includes cameras that feed back to your device (AR) - there are a couple of AR games available to purchase on the Apple app store that make use of AR to create a real world/sim world gaming experience.

So what can be done with this? Here are some ideas:

Parent idea:

-Use Augmented Reality

Adjacent Ideas:
-Useful for activities where moving your eyes is unsafe or less safe (like driving)
-Attractive for just about anything

Child Ideas:
1. HUD display for motorbike riders (goggle version)

2. HUD display for all other vehicles

3. Put the now very common GPS display in the AR goggles

4. AR windows for the bridge of a ship

5. Obvious benefits for security services that have a track based information system

6. Ditto for military (who already uses what is called a BMS or Battle Management System or soldier system)

7. Gaming - use existing toys and bring them alive with AR (toy soldiers will never be the same)

8. Tours - historical tours will never be the same, you would be able to make them come alive

9. What about an underwater version that helps you identify the type of fish you are seeing

10. Speaking of animal identification - what about for birds, flowers, trees, people

11. What about feeding the 'reality' back to a central location and then.....
Lets say you are at a sports game and some people around the ground are feeding back the reality - could you then watch the game in 3 dimensions? Could you switch your viewpoint to theirs?

12. Could the AR flyer be used as a cheap security drone? Could the fed be used with AR technology to monitor exclusion areas over an event site (like a concert or tourist attraction)

13. Could we see the rise of virtual offices? That is - your office space is simply white, your customers don a pair of AR goggles and you put up your products or displays for them (in a nice, neat tailored way) - that way your office is a reception and white wall with some seats! I suggest also adding some water and a coffee machine - people will spend some serious time in your office!

14. What about AR gaming on a large scale? Could a city, a forest, a farm become a new AR gaming site where people, events and 'things' pop out of the ground, out of the air or whatever? There might be some safety issues doing this around cars etc but could you imagine the worlds scariest ghost tour with a pair of AR goggle on!

15. What about firefighting? Could you immerse a team of firefighters in a situation and then fully simulate (except for the heat and other effects) the spread of a fire.

The next stage of AR technologies will enhance the display of AR images

After that is perfected we will start to see interactive technologies being developed such as data gloves, joysticks, and other devices that allow you a range of ways to interact with the augmented reality presented to you.

Within 5 to 10 years many common services will include an option for AR or be presented only in AR.

What does this mean for the new economy?
Entry criteria to this virtual or augmented world will be the display technology:
1. AR goggles
2. Or a smartphone or tablet with a camera

If you are a software developer, an entertainer or in the security business this is coming your way fast. For the rest of us this will be a stepping stone towards the way we will work in 5 to 10 years - we need to be familiar with it so we can use the applications that will be common in our homes and workplaces soon.

Those who do not have the entry requirements will not be able to:
1. Access the new entertainment options (except on a rental on per usage basis)
2. Keep abreast of the new technologies stemming from the uptake of AR usage

Do I rush out and buy some AR goggles? No not yet....just be aware of what it is. If your kids ask you for an AR flyer I would consider it a fun thing but also a useful investment as a learning tool.

So, is this one of the five ideas that will change the world? Maybe, but not today. I give it 5/10 for world changing.

Tell me what you think - post a comment.

Thanks for reading.

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