Augmented Reality Picture

Picture a world where we can interact with our surroundings and environment through a mobile device, perhaps even point and instantaneously recieve information about anything and everything—oh wait a second, that already exists.  Augmented reality (AR) is revolutionizing the way individuals (both consumers and professionals) interact with the world.  By using AR, our view of the physical, real-world environment is augmented by computer-generated sensory input.  The long story short is that our interactions with our environments are enhanced: information and functionality is added to our everyday experiences.

Let’s look a little deeper at some of the companies doing AR work.  With prototypes already developed, demos launched, and social media blowing up left and right, Google is pioneering developments in the rapidly expanding market by introducing their own “Google Glass.”  Essentially, Google Glass is a camera, display, touchpad, and microphone built into eye-glass frames so that you can view a display in your field of vision, take pictures and video, search, and translate on the go, all while being able to hold ice-cold beers in each one of your hands.  They take the best and latest software, combine it, and bring it to use in our everyday lives.  Need GPS?—Just turn it on and find yourself personally directed to your destination by arrows, signals, approximate distance, and built-in voice navigation.  You can also answer your text messages, phone calls, and emails hands free as well—why do we even need hands?

Let’s turn it up a notch and have a look at Layar, the prototypical AR app, which has over 30 million downloads and impressive partnerships such as Samsung and BMW.  Layar is a fully developed and generalized AR app: simply open it, point the field of view in any direction, and receive a variety of information concerning your specific geographic location.  The information is endless, ranging from real-estate properties, to restaurants, and even directions.

The AR market is expanding rapidly, and as it becomes more popular, unique niche apps are developed and released daily.  Let’s say I was walking down Bay Street on lunch break, feeling a little thirsty, thinking that maybe a Stella Artois would satisfy my desire.  Is there a good bar near me?  Does it have good customer feedback?  Does it serve what I want?  Well, why don’t I just open up my “Stella Artois Le Bar Guide” and find out!  The Stella Artois Le Bar Guide is an AR app that blends real-world places with directions and interaction, finding the perfect bar and beer for you…  or me.

Augmented reality is beneficial but what will the social consequences be?  Augmented reality is not just technology, it provides new ways of doing things in our everyday lives.  Whether we use Layar, Google Glass or another one of the thousand apps, we are creating shortcuts for ourselves.  The nature of integrated technological assistance will change the way we interact and ultimately alter our human behavior.

In summary, this technology allows us to obtain better information, faster than ever before: with AR, we see what we want to see.  In contrast, virtual reality replaces the real world with a simulated one.  When new algorithms are introduced, and face recognition is implemented, you will encounter what you want and who you want, filtering out the rest of the world.  Theoretically speaking, if our privately stored information, or even limited public information, was easily attainable through augmented reality applications, our social interactions with other people would be altered and our security might be at risk.  Generally, human interaction will be less necessary with these new AR applications, as readily-available computer-generated information eliminates the need to interact with one another (e.g. asking for directions).  AR is developing faster than we think and is coming sooner than we expect; brace yourselves!


Further reading:

The Prototypical AR Examples

What You Need To Know About Google Glass


By Paul Tkach

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