Augmented reality is the concept of adding information to the stream your senses already provide about the surrounding scene. Concretely, these last few months, a lot of software has appeared for smartphones, taking advantage of the integration of a camera with a good-enough screen. Here are a few examples:
- The recent Google Goggles and Google Shopper. Goggles adds information to objects you take a picture of, or uses GPS to retrieve information about shops you walk by and add it to the picture (most AR apps I’ve seen focus on this). Shopper adds information about the current product.
- Another feature of Goggles is the instant translation of text in a picture. This could be quite handy when travelling.
- There are augmented reality “browsers” which provide a platform to add features to. For example, Layar lets you select “Layers” of information to add to the scene.
- Wikitude uses augmented reality to add traveller’s guide type information to the scene.
- TAT augmented ID: use the cam to get a good image of someone to identify, and this uses an online face recognition service to provide public information they want to share if they’ve set up their “public ID card” (Twitter profile etc.).
Augmented reality appears a lot in science fiction. For the most part, though, it involves directly augmenting the field of view of a person. If you’ve ever seen Ghost in the shell (the movie, especially the second one), you’ll know what I mean. I remember being quite excited when I read about the possibility of added information through semi-transparent head-mounted displays (this video demonstrates, though in this case it’s not transparent at all, and obviously not something you’d walk with in your everyday life ). Cam-and-screen is more reachable for the moment, I guess, and a lot less cumbersome.