Photo from Wikimedia Commons
Many people have talked about how ‘the cloud’ and faster connection speeds might change the landscape of the internet, and it’s fair to say as well that there are several other technologies on the rise that might well change the way we use the internet. One of the most interesting of these though to my mind is augmented reality, which perhaps hasn’t yet gotten quite the attention it deserves.
So What is ‘Augmented Reality’?
The concept behind augmented reality is simple – this is digital information ‘overlaid’ on top of the real world or vice versa. The Nintendo 3DS has a nice little example of this which comes pre-installed – a series of games that you can play by using ‘AR’ cards and the built in camera. Essentially here you point the camera at the card on the table, and that then triggers a pre-programmed response that unleashes a series of 3 dimensional character for you to shoot and generally interact with on the screen against the camera background.
It’s all very clever, but essentially still just a throw away gimmick. At the same time we are also seeing AR in other capacities though, and perhaps most notably the ‘AR Codes’ that are popping up on everything from posters to fliers. Here the idea is that you point your camera at the code, and you will then be linked straight to that website. If you don’t already have an AR code for your site then you should look online, as there are a lot of places where you can find them easily.
Google is looking to take this further with its sadly ridiculous-looking ‘Google Goggles’ which turn your sun glasses essentially into a search engine. It’s a fun concept and certainly has some opportunity for advertising, but it’s not quite ‘there’ yet in terms of the AR future most of us are waiting for. And of course there are the other apps such as ‘Wikitude’ and such as ‘Layar’ which are basically encyclopaedias/maps that work on your phone through the camera. So you point the camera down a high street with your ‘layar’ set to ‘restaurants’ and the radius set to two miles and it will tell you all the restaurants within walking distance. All good and well yet again except for the fact that of the time it’s easier just to use the list view and to look at the nearby items listed on your page… which kind of negates the use of AR at all.
A Social AR App
So will AR ever kick off? Or is it one of those great ideas in theory that doesn’t quite have the effectiveness to be useful in real life? Well I’m here to argue that we haven’t seen the best of AR yet, and that the time when it truly kicks off will be when they introduce a ‘social’ AR app. I’m with Zuckerberg on this one – that ‘social’ is the big hook and the main selling point for the internet and other technologies based around it.
I imagine a dating site that works via AR. Here you would simply hold your phone up to a room full of people, and it would then tell you right away who in that room was single, and what kind of person they were looking for. This could do away with that embarrassing moment where you chat someone up, only to learn that they are in fact already seeing someone. And I see this as then branching out from just dating to other aspects – so that you end up approaching people because they have a similar interest and might make good friends, or because they’re a programmer looking for employment and that’s precisely what you need.
This would have huge advantages and opportunities for advertisers and it would provide a genuinely useful purpose. So let’s watch this space and see if I’m right…