Reality Check... Augmented Style

March 21, 2011

You've probably heard the term augmented reality by now. But just in case, here's a Wikipedia snippet for you:


Augmented reality
(AR) is a term for a live direct or an indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input, such as sound or graphics. It is related to a more general concept called mediated reality, in which a view of reality is modified (possibly even diminished rather than augmented) by a computer. (source)

It basically refers to graphics or information that are superimposed on your "real-life" view using something like your smartphone's camera or your computer's webcam. We're pretty stoked on this new tech trend and all its possibilities. Even my grandfather was telling me about an iPhone app that he downloaded called Star Walk ($2.99) that tells you the names of the stars and constellations you're looking at when you hold it up to the sky. Even though he didn't realize what the technology was called, he still thought it was pretty neat-o.

It's not just Star Walk either, there are lots of other informative iPhone and iPad apps available that integrate trivia into the live view of your environment. Don't know what the mountain in the distance is called? Check out (free) and figure it out. Need to know where the closest coffee shop is? Find it with Around Me (free), Localscope ($1.99), or even iNeedCoffee (free) if you speak Korean. And of course there's lots of potential in the game and entertainment realm. Kick a soccer ball around your kitchen using ARSoccer (free), blow up nearby cars with Firepower ($0.99), put out fires in your own backyard with Firefighter 360 ($0.99), or print out this marker and shoot hoops on your desk at work with ARBasketball (free).


The fashion and home decorating industries are picking up on this trend too. With SnapShop Showroom (free), available for the iPhone and iPad, you can see how furniture will look in your space before you buy it. Scale, rotate, flip, and try out different fabric and colour swatches. Companies like Boutique AccessoriesBoucheron, and Tacori let you try on their jewelry using your computer's webcam.

After the first wave of augmented reality applications, companies are now starting to explore this trend even further. Have you ever been stumped by a confusing, image-lacking instruction manual or thrown it out with the box? Wouldn't it be nice if your phone could walk you through the process?

This technology is even creeping into outdoor and public spaces. Axe (the Unilever brand known as Lynx in the UK) even incorporated this technology into a recent advertising campaign, dropping angels into a London railway station to "interact" with passersby. And judging by a few guys' reactions... we think it was a hit.

Even Lego has figured out a way to enhance their packaging using augmented reality. Hold a box up to a Lego Digital Box (found in select stores) and a 3D model of the contents appears on the screen. Do you know a kid who wouldn't be dead set on getting a Lego set after seeing it on the screen like that? Didn't think so. The Lego website offers a similar feature, with printable icons that when held up to your webcam reveal a 3D image of the product.


So what do you think about this trend? Have you tried out any of these new augmented reality apps or demos yet?




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