This “between” world is what's called augmented reality or AR and it’s technology that’s within reach. AR is going to change the way we hear, see and feel our world and dramatically alter the way we search, browse and learn in the virtual world.
Last month our DIY Dude showed you How to augment your reality by using Metaio software, a web cam and your PC to see a T-Rex stalking about on your desk. While this was a great introduction to the technology it is in the commercial space that we will see some of its most interesting applications.
It is already being utilised to enhance kid’s toys. Collectable cards from the eagerly anticipated feature film Avatar will feature Mattel i-Tags that will display 3D digital images that kids can see on a PC screen when the toys are held up to a web cam.
AR has even snuck into a few mobile apps like Layar, TwitARound, and Yelp, and is seriously altering the way we interact with our environments. Using you handset’s camera view as a window to the augmented world, location data apps like these can provide you with information about businesses (like restaurants) you are looking at, locate the closet tube station to you and identify Twitter users in close proximity.
Layar’s augmented reality interface
What you need
While all of this is very exciting there are a number of barriers to AR becoming our default reality. To enjoy AR you need a display (window) that integrates your view of the two worlds, preferably a head mounted display so you won’t have to pull out your phone or notebook every time you want to merge the two worlds.
More than this you need a perspective sensitive tracking system including a camera to capture the real world and location data like GPS co-ordinates and digital compass to capture your orientation. Lastly computing power is indispensable. Some sort of computing device and an AR browser is necessary to correspond data from the virtual world with what is captured in real-time from the real world.