The idea is simple. Take a real-life scene as viewed through a mobile phone, or perhaps a video of a scene, and over this lay out useful data such as statistics, location or environment information, all of which can be seen in 3D form in front of you.
Up to now augmented reality releases and demos have been viewed as largely gimmicky. Consisting of simple games such as “Sky Siege” for the iPhone which involves shooting down tiny helicopters which appear to be flying around in front of you, to advertising campaigns from the likes of BMW where the user can turn their desk into a surface for a small car to drive around. Now that a plethora of apps have hit the smartphone market, augmented reality has really started to ‘come into its own’. Its practical use is reflected in apps which provide location information on shops, stations and bars and even where your car is parked, whilst its fun, cutting edge side is seen in apps such as “Iron Man HUD”, a heads up device which allows you to see the world as comic book character Iron Man would!
As a concept it is well suited to the Phone and App market, but there is potential for AR to grow and have a significant impact in a variety of areas. As a potential revenue stream its use in Advertising hasn’t yet been fully realised. Targeted advertising used within location-based smartphone apps is a definite possibility. Imagine looking for a local pub and as you walk down the street holding up your phone, a number of ads from nearby shops float up tempting you with a range of discounts, offers and services.
Most AR usage tends to be experienced in a fairly solitary manner which seems to suggest there could be limits on its growth. What if there was a way to make the experience more interactive? Perhaps using it in a way that involves interacting with other people? The area with the most exciting potential and one that is made for a group experience is that of gaming. Most of the AR games released to date rely on single users shooting either objects or people, or chasing and tracking something down. The real scope in improvement lies in location-based or street gaming. Groups of people gathered together playing games in real life locations using technology such as GPS to monitor and drive where players go. The use of augmented reality on top of this offers up the addition of a fantasy element to enhance gameplay. Shooting monsters, seeing cars blow up before you or even following a trail of clues laid over existing street signs. The possibilities could be endless.