Augmented Reality – When Code Comes to Life

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By definition, augmented reality is any view of a physical real-world environment whose elements are augmented by virtual computer-generated imagery. As a technology is growing rapidly, and its uses are now broadening to other platforms outside its early introduction in network sporting events.

Typically augmented reality is associated with ultra futuristic, cranial displays such as seen in movies like The Terminator. However, more familiar hardware is actually where we see the innovation of augmented reality heading. The combination of mobile computing and information-heavy, user-generated services have created a breading ground for new augmented reality applications that are pushing the limits on what we thought was possible.

The advancement of microprocessors and mobile computing has transformed augmented reality from a science fiction pipedream to an actual viable technology.

Many of the Smartphone and mobile computing devices on the market today, including the Apple iPhone™ and the Android™ phones, include built-in GPS as well as a compass which intern means that these devices have location detection. This is important because many of the current uses for AR rely on knowing the devices’ location in Cartesian space. Some applications provide directions while others provide location relevant data such as directions, events, and more. Currently, both the Android and the iPhone have AR applications that are available for download. Dishpointer is an example of such an application. The Dishpointer application allows satellite installers to find the nearest satellite. By simply by holding up their phone to the sky, a satellite installer can get a virtual overlay of the nearest satellites line of sight.

Investors are getting into the AR game as well. In early 2010 the eastern Washington state based company Gravity Jack secured $250,000 in investment money for development of a new kind of AR application. The patented augmented reality concepts that Gravity Jack is working on held so much promise that the upstart company actually had to turn away some investors since it has an existing revenue model.

Its not only start-ups that are looking at this technology. Researchers from Research and Markets (R&M) claim that both Apple and Sony are developing wearable, head-mounted video displays while General Motors is working on an AR windshield that uses a compact laser reflection to superimposes messages and graphics on the windshield. The University of Washington is working on a proof of concept augmented reality contact lenses, and though it has only been tested on rabbits, scientists believe that this type of technology will be the future of AR.

A recent trend that has emerged in the AR space is that of using augmented reality code in advertising campaigns. More and more companies are finding ways to utilize AR into their website branding. During the release of the movie Avatar, Coke developed a campaign that allowed users to see a 3D ship appear from their screen. The ship appeared when users held up specially branded coke cans to their webcam. Ray-ban has used augmented reality code on their website in such a way that users can see what various sun glasses will look like when worn.

Many people feel that AR will change the way people interact with the online world. As the technology advances the real world and the online world will become more and more intertwined. Though augmented reality is still really in its infancy as a technology it is something to be watched.