Augmented Reality (AR): A New World Order - SES San Francisco

I'm afraid this will be my last blog entry at SES San Francisco, but it's been a blast. I don't know how you're feeling right now, but I'm knackered. Luckily we can end on a high with a fix of Augmented Reality.

Gene Becker (Lightning Laboratories) is moderating this session, with speakers: Howard Ogden (Augment Reality), Lisa Murphy (metaio), Michael Liebhold (Institute for the Future), Mathijs Gajentaan (Winvolve), and Jay Wright (Qualcomm).

Augmented Reality (AR) is emerging as a really hot topic and there is huge opportunity to blend it with the web. Let's talk AR.

Howard is up first.

AR enhances the world around you by superimposing it with digital data

There are two types of AR:

  1. Marker-based AR (where you use a webcam to recognize the pattern printed on a marker)
  2. Mobile AR (uses camera capability and GPS relative to your surroundings)

AR is cool, but can AR become a mass medium?

AR can be used to:

  • Enhance decision making process (e.g., superimposing house specs and prices in real estate)
  • Educate/recreate history (e.g., Beatles facts superimposed in locations)
  • Make fun applications (e.g., many AR games)
  • Connect people and things (e.g., Tweeps Around allows you to see conversations going on around you)

Barriers to AR include:

  • Devices differ widely in their support for AR
  • The accuracy of GPS is not great (~10 yard margin of error)

Lisa is up next and is going to talk more about some AR use cases.

Google Trends show that the interest in AR is ramping up. AR can help to get any application into the press right now but is it just a gimmick, or is it here to stay?

Lego found that retail sales were softening as buyers had trouble visualizing what the products would look like once built. So they used a kiosk application installed in a retail store so that when kids held the Lego digital packaging up in front of the kiosk, they could see the product visualized in front of them. That is pure awesomeness.

JC Penny are using a virtual dressing room which allows shoppers to try on clothes in the convenience of their own home by overlaying clothes over you to see how it fits. They also put in a lot of effort to explain to visitors how the technology worked, and this really helped toward its success.

Key Takeaways

  • Use AR to solve a specific need
  • Dedicate the time and effort to educate your users
  • Go mobile, if that is where your users are
  • Spend the time up front to come up with the concept

Michael steps up to the podium. He's going to go into what's out there now and what's ahead.

Google Goggles currently blends Augmented Reality with visual search. It uses object recognition to trigger AR. As an example, you could take a photo of the Golden Gate Bridge and it will bring up search results related to your photo.

Facial recognition and social mining are also interesting AR developments, but the idea is a little scary and opens up a can of worms where privacy is concerned. Imagine taking a picture of a complete stranger and having the ability to find out information about them.

Right now, video head mounted displays and see through head mounted displays for AR are pretty clunky, and is missing positioning technologies to support it. In 2020, expect to see high-end see-through head mounted displays with modest positioning. After 2020, Michael predicts that digital contact lenses will provide us with see-through AR everywhere. Bring it on!

Mathijs is up next. He says that AR is about enhancing experiences.

There are 5 Es of AR:

  1. Enhance
  2. Experience
  3. Engage
  4. Educate
  5. Entertain

Quiznos wanted to engage more with their consumers, so they introduced a lot of fun AR activities, including the ability to hold your phone up in Yankee Stadium and see a floating animated Quiznos toaster.

GM is also working on a project to improve windshield visibility to improve driving in poor weather conditions. Pretty cool stuff.

There is a Civil War AR project that is using AR to help educate people by offering real historical site interactivity, essentially knocking down traditional classroom walls.

To find out more about this project, check them out:

Lastly up is Jay. He's going to share what is possible with this technology today.

He talks about vision-based AR which enables a more immersive and interactive experience. It scans the environment, compares, positions, and then renders (at 30+ times per second).

AR Applications can be:

  • Instructional
  • Gaming and play (3D games in real world environments)
  • Navigation and discovery
  • Media/Advertising
  • Social Networking
  • Visual Search

And that my friends, is what's called a wrap. It's been a real pleasure blogging for Search Engine Watch these past few days. Have a safe journey home and see you at the next SES!