The Next Big Thing in Tech: Wayy cool. Augmented Reality or AR. This is not fiction. This is tomorrow.
So, what is augmented reality? Simply, augmented reality is our everyday perception of reality that is enhanced by computer-generated data, such as in a GPS navigational system, for example.
The applications for AR are rather new, but forms of AR have been around for years, when computer scientists at MIT, the W3C and other futuristic institutions donned special glasses that had an added visual layer built into them. The practical applications we're beginning to see now are cool and future applications are promising -- almost beyond comprehension.
Yet, it's more than a toy. It often works with QR (quick response) codes -- those small, square boxes with squiggly lines you see on envelopes and on an increasing number of products. In Seoul, commuters use their smart phones to tap into the QR codes on train ads to buy groceries, which are at their doorstep by the time commuters arrive home. Applications not far in the future for North America include looking at a 'For Sale' sign in your neighborhood and then tapping the QR code to see an augmented reality 3D tour of the property in front of you.
This is a visual technology and to truly understand how it works, here is an ultra cool video from Microsoft Office's Future Vision Series.
This is a six-minute video. Grab a beer and some popcorn, because you're in for the ride of your life. Then get a new iPhone. I watched this several times to get a description of the scenes.
Scene 1: Johanesburg airport, ground transportation. Ayla is a young professional whom we see waiting for a taxi at the airport. Her eyeglasses are translating Afrikaans into English. She gets into the taxi and pulls out her smartphone and swipes her finger along its touch surface. No keys to press; everything is a touch screen. On her smartphone, which is more than a phone -- it is a smart device -- she sees a choice of ‘Travel Hub’ or ‘Kitchen Wall’. She touches ‘Travel Hub’ and looks up at a building and sees the words ‘Tomorrow’s meeting is here’ flashed in letters upon the surface of the building.
Ayla presses 'Hotel Check In' on her smartphone and an image of a key floats into view. She taps the digital key check in and the next screen slides into place with the words, ‘Your room is ready.’
Next, we see a bellhop in the airport, who pulls out his smart device and an image of Ayla pops up with her preferences: English speaking, room number, number of nights and number of bags. The bellhop meets Ayla as her taxi pulls into the hotel. He brings her bag to her room.
Scene 2: Hong Kong subway. A young man is in the subway points his smart device at an AR picture of a man who's advertising a benefit concert. The young man pledges $HK 20 for this benefit concert, checks to see the number of benefit pledges (and amounts) by station and then boards his train.
Back to Scene 1. Ayla is in her hotel room and chooses breakfast by pointing her smart device at an iPad-like device on the wall, which has a menu displayed on it. Then, she uses her smart device to tap the iPad-like device to for the ‘green wall proposal’ that she needs to review for the meeting. The proposal opens up to a two-page display, much like it would on a current e-book reader, but this display is sized to accommodate standard-sized, left- and right-hand book pages on the screen. She taps a section and a tooltip pops up. She taps and it copies. She taps another section and pastes the copied section into the document.
The next scene is of co-workers on this proposal, who tap, swipe or wave to effect changes on the screens. A keyboard is also available. We must be in Hong Kong, because the man in the Hong Kong subway is now in the office with another man, with other meeting participants appearing virtually. Meeting participants wave, tap and swipe to get to the information they need for the ‘green wall proposal.’
The next scene is Ayla’s house in the US, where her young daughter does homework on the kitchen table via her iPad-like device. Dad comes in. Daughter taps her smart pad to ask mom’s help for a bake sale recipe for school. Daughter calls mom on the phone and mom answers from her hotel room in Johannesburg. Dad taps the refrigerator door to see what’s inside the refrigerator.
Mom taps the wall smart pad and looks at pies. Daughter wants a different pie. Something different pops up on the wall iPad, a recipe for Melktart, a South African recipe for custard. Daughter agrees that this is the special recipe she wants for the bake sale. The recipe then pops up on the wall-sized smart pad and mom sends it to the daughter, who uses it for the bake sale.