Discovery or Augmented Reality?

‘Mobile augmented reality to generate 1.4 billion downloads by 2015 as major brands embrace the concept’ Juniper Research, Mobile augmented reality.

Starbucks have a new Cup Magic app that allows you to send and receive virtual Valentine messages. Scan one of the limited edition Valentine’s Day themed cups and watch your cup come to life. You can also use it to send a Starbucks Card eGift.

Adidas have augmented reality footwear. Yes, really. Nike and Sport magazine are enabling fans to watch exclusive video directly through their poster campaigns. Kit Kat Chunky asked their consumers to scan adverts and vote for their favourite bar. Flash your smart phone at Heinz Ketchup and its bottles starts showing recipe cards. Dress up your Guinness and take a shot of it to send to friends. Walkers Crisps bags will show you the weather. Even Saga holiday brochures have waves lapping over your keyboard.

Augmented Reality is well and truly here and it’s something big for 2012.

Green Box ProjectArtists have also been moving ahead fast on augmented reality, as we saw back in November 2011, with Future Human‘s special event for Beck’s Green Box Project, a global fund established to inspire, celebrate and financially support independent talent in art, design, music and fashion. A Beck’s-green box radiates light, you point your app-enabled smart phone or tablet at the box and a ‘work of art’ jumps out of the screen appearing to hover over the box. Pretty cool and you don’t need a lot of beer to see things like this.

Barbie The Dream ClosetShoppers are soon going to be bombarded with Webcam Social Shopper (WSS) which turns shopper’s webcams into interactive mirrors to see if a piece of clothing is right for them and snap photos and share looks with friends to get instant feedback via social media. Zugara is leading the way on these new e-commerce platforms. Even America’s sweetheart Barbie’s Dream Closet augments New York Fashion Week.  NET-A-PORTER are rolling out Augmented Reality Shopping Windows, around the world including Paris, New York, London, Munich and Sydney. It has been rolled out globally for the new Karl by Karl Lagerfeld collection. By pointing the camera at the various pieces in the window, revealing 360 degree product models, video catwalk showcases, product information, pricing and the ability to buy instantly and a great way to generate after hours sales.

AR has been around for a long time.  It’s different from Virtual Reality which replaces the real world with a simulated one. AR is a layer of sound, video, graphics or GPS data that enhances your visual and aural experience. AR technology includes hand-held devices such as smart phones, head-mounted displaysvirtual retinal displays. External devices may be a thing of the past with contact lenses being developed to receive data feeds directly to the retina.

It seems scary stuff, right?

Terminator 3 Retina ViewJust think of it as layering. Film sub titling brought augmented reality to the screen but James Cameron’s renowned science-fiction film The Terminator let the audience view the world through the display of statistical data that is a part of the Terminator’s vision. Tom Caudell is credited with using the term Augmented Reality in 1990, working at Boeing. Since then fashion designer Hussein Chalayan created a piece from his 1998 ‘Panoramic’ collection to allow the viewer to watch the catwalk at their own pace. Rihanna did a 360 view of her video a Late Night Doritos campaign in 2010. Black Eyed Peas are doing this on stage  and if you are live streaming with your smartphone you can see some of the band members dissolve.   Chris O’Shea’s Hand From Above tickled, stretched, flicked or removed entirely passers-by in real-time by a giant deity on an overhead screen which got Forever 21 into trouble with their video billboard in Times Square in which a super model appears to pluck people from the crowds on screen. Movie blockbuster Inception has its own app which augments sound to induce dreams through the headset of your device.

However, it’s all very much geared to  iPhone and iPod Touch. Unless you use QR codes. Aurasma is the augmented reality platform for Android.

One of the early ways to access augmented reality was through two-dimensional Quick Response Codes or QR Codes, which have been around since 1994 when Toyota tracked vehicles during the manufacturing process. There are now phone apps such as Layar, which claims to be the world’s leading mobile augmented reality platform or Blippar, the world’s first mobile augmented reality and image recognition platform and Qoncept who develop complete applications for clients and is the provider of “Scan It,” one of the popular AR browsers in Japan.

At the 2012 Consumers Electronics Show in Las Vegas Mercedes Benz showcased their augmented reality dashboard that shows vehicles approaching intersections virtually superimposed on the windscreen. To simplify the search for a parking space, mobility concepts like car2go or network information, can be used to-identify spaces which will become vacant soon. Its integrated swarm of social media apps pick up local news from social networks, about points of interest and news can be left for others. Useful stuff.

Games are also driving ahead such as Child of Eden  integrating sound, vision and touch in one seamless experience or Parrot Drone a Wi-Fi quadricopter buzzing overhead getting real-time images layered with game power. The area you can play on is wider now – your device remembers where the trigger points are so you can zoom in and move around.

So what’s the future? Can AR be a tangible medium through which we can combine our online idealised selves with our real personas? Imagine walking into a crowded room, someone looks for you by filming the room on their smart phone and identifying you, your code, and the way you want to be seen. It could also save the printed word with “Between Page And Screen” an augmented reality book of poems, which works like a digital pop-up book that users activate through a webcam, enabling you to hold the words right in your hands. Or dragons breathing fire.

Having all these kids up and about with their handheld games helps with obesity, as shoppers we’ll be dressing better and driving more safely. Not so scary after all.

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