Augmented Reality: The Future Is Now

[via: Minnesota Public Relations Blog]

In the digital space, we’re always looking at what the next trend is going to be. We’re paid to ensure we’re in the loop of “what’s hot” and how our company and/or clients can implement it into their business. As such, for the past 12 months I’ve been completely fascinated with augmented reality (AR). In my opinion, and if I had to scale the level of opportunity, impact and importance, AR would be on the top of my list for trends-to-watch.

Augmented Reality has been around for quite some time, with its roots dating back to the late 50s – the term “augment reality” was coined in 1992. While there have been a significant amount of uses of AR, the most well-known to the general public is the yellow “first down” line used in the National Football League. However, as the smart phone has continued to occupy more hands and more of our daily lives, AR has begun to get more attention. As a result, more companies and brands are beginning to explore AR and put more emphasis on its potential use.

For the sake of trying to keep this article short, I’ll focus mostly on mobile use, but will touch briefly on examples of AR outside the mobile space.

Common Uses:
• Location overlay: Right now, the broadest and most basic use of AR is in terms of location. You can use Yelp’s AR app, for example, to find a nearby restaurant, hotel, hospital, shopping outlet, etc.; and then get reviews and tips on Lonely Planet’s AR app.

• Information: For those who like to travel, you can use Wikitude World Browser to find information and data about a variety of points of interest. Not only that, but museums are starting to use AR for their exhibits and to share information. One of the coolest apps that I’ve recently started playing with is Sekai, which allows you to tag a location with information (photos, text, video)

• Gaming: One of the coolest uses of AR is in the gaming industry. While the initial gaming will be basic, we’ll eventually evolve into more complex and advanced gaming. A few cool examples: Rock’em Sock’em Robots; AR.Drone Parrot; Zombie ShootAR

One of the most intriguing uses of AR comes in the potential collaboration with location-based services. Imagine the uses of an AR-LBS partnership for city and state departments. I’m imaging a protocol where data about everyone who visits a certain location is stored in the cloud and only accessible by local police departments. Say a store was robbed, a child gone missing, or someone assaulted. Your local police could simply point their phone at a designated location and see everyone who was at or near that location within a given time period. An interesting and useful way to cut down on crime and violence.

Holition Augmented Reality – Tissot

In line with a marketing strategy designed to appeal to a younger, digitally-aware consumer, Tissot used Holition’s irresistibly attention-grabbing Augmented Reality experience to generate stand-out in a way not possible through traditional point-of-sale techniques or through web-based publicity.

To maximise the impact of this unique approach to point-of-sale engagement and brand engagement online, a major PR initiative was swung into place to create real buzz around the initiative.

Holition designed and deployed a bespoke Augmented Reality application for Tissot, allowing consumers to experience the T-Touch collection online in full interactive 3D.

A branded tip-on was designed and printed for insertion onto a Tissot print advertising campaign across a variety of media, including GQ and T3, driving readers onto Tissot’s website to experience the Augmented Reality application for themselves.

The activity was accompanied by a data-capture mechanism, allowing Tissot to build a B2C database for future marketing projects.

To take the experience direct to consumers, the Augmented Reality application was affixed to a window at Selfridges department store, in one of Europe’s busiest shopping districts, allowing consumers to try on Tissot’s virtual T-Touch collection while standing in Oxford Street.

Augmented Hyper Reality: Domestic Robocop

The image that you see here is from a short film called “Augmented (hyper) Reality: Domestic Robocop”. It is a short film by Keiichi Matsuda, a Masters student at the Bartlett School of Architecture in the United Kingdom. I think he deserves top marks for his effort to show us what the future could be like.
While we’re all salivating over what may be the next phase of computer interfaces in the form of the Apple tablet, we might as well look to the future of interface dynamics likely to follow: augmented reality. Keiichi Matsuda, a Masters student at the Bartlett School of Architecture in the UK, created this short film called “Augmented (hyper) Reality: Domestic Robocop” to show us what the world might look like in a future home embedded with augmented reality interfaces.

Filled with advertising panels that come to life, the user’s concept kitchen is something out of “Alice In Wonderland” with talking appliances and portals to outside landscapes right at your fingertips. If this kaleidoscope vision is indeed the future, we may all need to increase our internal RAM. Check out the video

Augmented Reality – Bionic Contact Lens

A new contact lens embedded with electronic circuits could be the seed for “bionic eyes” that can see displays overlaid on a person’s field of view, researchers say. The minute circuitry could aid the vision-impaired or could be used to create tiny but discernible readouts offering data such as driving directions or on-the-go Web surfing. Researchers at the University of Washington created the flexible, biologically safe lens—the first of its kind—using nano-scale manufacturing techniques. The results were presented January 17 at a meeting of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers in Tucson, Arizona.

“If it works, it would be fabulous,” said Blair MacIntyre, who heads the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Augmented Environments Lab.

MacIntyre, who was not involved in the new research, works on so-called augmented reality—techniques to overlay visual data using external devices such as headsets but a contact lens, he said, could eliminate the need for these bulkier viewing techniques.
Until recently, display circuitry couldn’t be made small and light enough to be placed on a contact lens without a noticeable increase in the lens’s weight.

“The nice thing about nanotechnology is that we can make all these parts really tiny,” said project leader Babak Parviz, an assistant professor of electrical engineering at the University of Washington. The first challenge was designing the surface of the lens so the electronics didn’t block regular vision.

The trick, Parviz said, was to place most of the minute components in the areas over the eye’s natural blind spots.

Perhaps the more pressing problem was how to attach the electronic components—each thinner than a human hair—to the delicate polymer of a contact lens. Direct placement would probably damage the lens and be too time consuming. Instead the team built separate, nano-size metal components and mixed them together so that they appeared like a fine powder.

This powder was then placed in a vial of fluid and poured over a pitted lens surface.
Each pit corresponded to a particular component, so as the mixture washed over the lens, the components found their positions.
A molecular adhesive force known as capillary action—the same property that allows plants to “suck up” water—locked the pieces into place.
The lenses were then put into the eyes of lab rabbits, which showed no signs of adverse effects after at least 20 minutes of wear.


ARDefender is an Augmented Reality Game, involving a tower, various weapons and nasty opponents bugging you on your desk.

Simply move your phone to target the enemies, it’s magical! The game uses your camera phone and a piece a paper that you printed. Discover this revolutionary game play on several Smart phones.

NOTE: You need to print this file to play :

Top 10 Augmented Reality iPhone Apps

While Lawnmower Man may have led us to believe the future was a virtual one, it seems that in fact augmented reality (the overlaying of digital data on the real world) is where we’re headed.

A buzz technology right now, augmented reality apps are quickly gaining momentum on the iPhone. So we sort the digital wheat from the pixelated chaff to bring you ten AR apps for the iPhone that vary from functional, to educational, to just plain fun.

1. Le Bar Guide

Le Bar App Image

Although the wisdom of getting drunk people to wave their iPhones around on today’s mean streets is questionable, if you drink responsibly, as this Stella Artois-backed app urges you to, this could be a handy tool. As with similar location-based AR apps, Le Bar (that’s French for bar, by the way) Guide will assist you in finding the nearest watering hole, give you ratings and then even point you to a taxi within stumbling distance. It’s accurate to 20 feet, which is a coincidence, as that’s about our level of accuracy after three pints of the French stuff.

2. WorkSnug

WorkSnug App Image

Another corporate-backed app, this time by Plantronics, is WorkSnug, an iPhone app that finds digital nomads a place to lay their weary laptop. It identifies Wi-Fi hotspots and potential workplaces – from coffee shops to professional rent-a-desk office spaces – with user reviews encompassing power provision, atmosphere, noise levels and even the quality of the coffee. Although currently only available for London, versions for San Francisco, New York, Berlin, Madrid are due soon.

3. Pocket Universe: Virtual Sky Astronomy

Pocket Astronomer App Image

This star map app will spell out the stars, planets and constellations for you. Needing no connectivity, this clever app contains data on 10,000 stars, 88 constellations and lunar phases, while the “tonight’s sky” feature shows meteor showers and visible planets based on your location. Just hold your iPhone skywards on a bright night and before you can say “Hubble telescope” you’ll be looking at Uranus.

4. DishPointer

DishPointer Image

Staying on the celestial theme, what started out as a clever Google Maps (Google Maps) mashup has been turned into an iPhone app, and is within days of launching for Android (Android) handsets too. The mobile version of DishPointer is designed for satellite installers or mobile broadcasters to hold their phones up to the sky and get a virtual overlay of their nearest satellites to know which way to point the darn dish. If you aren’t employed in such a field, yet you have this on your phone, then your nerd-score just went through the stratosphere. Way to go, cable guy.

5. AugMeasure

AugMeasure Image

Finally an iPhone app your dad can get excited about. Augmented reality measuring arrives with AugMeasure which lets you gauge short distances using on your iPhone’s camera. AugMeasure displays distances (up to 30 centimeters or 12 inches) on the screen overlaid onto the live image which will change as you move the phone. While the results might not be precise enough for that intricate woodworking project you’ve got going on in the basement, for those quick, “No, it’s definitely longer than 6 inches” moments, it’s a must.

6. Virtual Graffiti

Virtual Graffiti Image

If the militant grammar nerd within knows that the sign for “Buddys Bar” needs an apostrophe, then Virtual Graffiti can help. Snap an image, add your witticism, embellishment or “tag”, then, once uploaded, your artistic addition to the world can be browsed on a location basis thanks to the Google Maps integration. All the fun of tagging, none of the embarrassment of getting caught with a spray can in your hot little old-enough-to-know-better hand.

7. Theodolite

Theodolite Image

If you’re the type that likes to know what axis is bisecting your Northerly inclination and at what altitude, then chances are you already have an actual theodolite. If you don’t and that sentence gave you chills (in a good way) then you’re 99 cents away from topographical heaven. As well as offering all that a theolodite might, but in a decidedly more portable package, this app overlays such data over your camera’s image and even lets you snap the odd screenshot for posterity.

8. Car Finder

Car Finder Image

We’re sure you have no use for this one yourself, but if you know anyone who might have difficulty finding their way back to the car in those huge parking lots, then the Car Finder app is a good suggestion. Once the car’s location is set, the app creates a visible marker showing the car, its distance away and the direction in which to head. There are other non-AR apps which offer this kind of tool, but we think seeing it on a real-life display will make locating that pesky Pontiac a piece of cake.

9. Firefighter 360

Firefighter 360 Image

Catering to both pyromaniacs and Backdraft fantasists, Firefighter 360 will set your immediate location on fire, requiring you, as heroic fireperson, to get out the hose, douse some flames and save some passers-by. As far as iPhone gaming goes, it’s arguably not a high point. The sound effects are crude and the graphics cartoonish. But it’s an interesting application of AR that makes us excited about the next wave of AR games. Did we mention you get to play a fireperson?

10. iPew

iPew Image

Want to shoot people in the face with a laser? Yep, there’s an app for that. iPew could easily also be named iPuerile, as it really is that dumb. But, sometimes it’s the simple things in life (kicking leaves, vanilla ice cream, swapping around the keys on a colleague’s keyboard when they’re on vacation) that offer the most pleasure – at least on a short term basis. iPew offers you a choice of weapons and provides gratifying noises as you get someone in your virtual sights and blast them away. Recommended for board meetings, long commutes and those cozy nights in with the in-laws.

Blaise Aguera y Arcas demos augmented-reality maps

In a demo that drew gasps at TED2010, Blaise Aguera y Arcas demos new augmented-reality mapping technology from Microsoft.

Blaise Agüera y Arcas is the architect of Bing Maps at Microsoft, building augmented reality into searchable maps. He’s also the co-creator of Photosynth, software that assembles static photos into a synergy of zoomable, navigatable spaces.

Blaise Aguera y Arcas’ background is as multidimensional as the visions he helps create. In the 1990s, he authored patents on both video compression and 3D visualization techniques, and in 2001, he made an influential computational discovery that cast doubt on Gutenberg’s role as the father of movable type.

He also created Seadragon (acquired by Microsoft in 2006), the visualization technology that gives Photosynth its amazingly smooth digital rendering and zoom capabilities. Photosynth itself is a vastly powerful piece of software capable of taking a wide variety of images, analyzing them for similarities, and grafting them together into an interactive three-dimensional space. This seamless patchwork of images can be viewed via multiple angles and magnifications, allowing us to look around corners or “fly” in for a (much) closer look. Simply put, it could utterly transform the way we experience digital images.