Augmented Reality is an emerging technology, merging 3D visuals into the real world. New gaming platforms can bring popular games like Tetris on your carpet or your kitchen table. Maybe you already tried the Layar App on your cell phone or stumbled upon an advertisement using Augmented Reality, like the viral marketing campaign last year that created angels appearing in the middle of the London Victoria train station. The truth is that this technology definitely captures peoples’ attention. Just like anything new and flashy.
But is there anything else there beyond marketing gimmicks or gaming?
We perceive the world directly through our senses; through Augmented Reality the world is augmented with virtual information that is not there, but only experienced through vision. And in some case by smell too. Tokyo University developed an Augmented Reality headset combined with a smell spray device. That way you can have the same Augmented Reality cookie (or Meta-cookie as it is called), changing flavours and colours in every bite using the different smell. In practice this technology reinforces dietary programs, especially for hospitalised patients by making bland food appear tastier, as the creator declared.
A more cultural promise of this technology is the application on heritage sites. Here Augmented Reality can be used to reconstruct historical cultural heritage monuments that can be visited and experienced by visitors. Imagine for example visiting the ruins of an ancient temple, while having a full visual experience of its primary glory and learn more for ancient architecture.
And if you got tired of wandering around, why not stay in and “edutain” (educate and entertain) yourself with an Augmented Reality book. The first pop-up Augmented Reality book was introduced last year for the iPad titled “Whose afraid of bugs’. In this book you discover virtual bugs that can interact with you, which according to recent psychotherapy studies can also serve as a treatment of phobias such as arachnophobia by helping you overcome the fear of insects (arachnophobia) in a safe environment.
Of course, what the future holds is not limited in portable screens or head mounted devices, not even in electronic glasses. Researchers are working to the development of electronic contact lenses, offering the ability to superimpose a transparent high-resolution display over the field of natural vision of the eye. Earlier this year, Google released a series of videos about an exploratory project named Project Glass challenging us to imagine a world with such technology that can help us to explore and share by bringing us information directly from every aspect of life.
But before you get over excited about Augmented Reality you need to consider that a lot of these ideas came into existence during the early 90’s, and those that drive current and near-future developments are already about twenty years old. So please be patient, there is plenty of time to decide is which reality you want to live in!
Takuji Narumi, Takashi Kajinami, Tomohiro Tanikawa, and Michitaka Hirose. 2010. Meta cookie. In ACM SIGGRAPH 2010 Emerging Technologies (SIGGRAPH '10). ACM, New York, NY, USA,
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