Augment Your Reality

If you haven’t seen it yet, get ready to see it everywhere: augmented reality is on its way to being the new ubiquity. Presaged by the pixilated QR codes that convey web addresses, this new lookup still uses your cell phone or tablet, but can deliver video or animation content right on your phone, superimposed over what you’re seeing through your viewfinder. And it can use tags that look like… well, anything.

Ads for the new VW Beetle just went up in Toronto’s Dundas Square: (jump to 0:35)

And maybe you even thought about getting an AR Drone for the holidays?

For some reason I recall the punchline of a joke I heard once: “There has got to be a pony in there somewhere.” This is a great platform, waiting for somebody to unlock its potential for an application beyond gaming or advertising. Today, there are a few issues that hold AR back as a medium, and the biggest barrier to adoption is having to take your phone out of your pocket.

Here’s how I think of augmented reality, broken into its basic components:

  1. There is a marker (the AR equivalent of a QR code): this is the graphic that lets the public know there is more content that can be revealed by scanning it.
  2. There is a process: these are the steps a user takes to view the AR content (taking out the phone, loading an AR app to the phone/tablet, scanning the marker)
  3. There is a payoff: this is the delivery of the information to the user (animation, graphic, etc)

For AR to gain widespread adoption, the payoff for the user has to be high, and the process has to be minimal. Otherwise, why would anyone bother using it?

Someday, everybody knows that we’ll have heads-up displays in our cars, and nano-OLED displays on our glasses or retinal projection, so we won’t have to take out a phone or iPad. Until then, AR usage will be games and ads.

Our challenge to you: how can you use this neat tool for practical purposes, in building design, construction, and retrofit?

About author
I'm the former manager of Fraunhofer CSE's TechBridge program, dedicated to supporting the commercialization of promising new cleantech innovations. All opinions expressed are my own, and don't represent an official endorsement from Fraunhofer CSE or the Fraunhofer Society.
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