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April 26, 2012

Future Tech: Augmented Reality

Augmented reality – it’s the next big thing, apparently. But is it all it’s cracked up to be? Will it actually change our lives, bringing new experiences to the living room, shifting our perceptions of what’s real and what’s not? Nokia Connects takes a look.

Oakley Thump via Web/Tech/Gadgets

As you can see from the picture above, it’s not just Google’s much-vaunted Project Glass that might take us to another world. No Sir (or Madam). Oakley and others are getting in on the act, proving that it might just be something worth taking note of.

But what are the practical uses of augmented reality in day to day life? The first that springs to mind for me is gaming (but maybe not quite as immersive as the Red Dwarf game in ‘Gunmen of the Apocalypse’ – that’s more alternative reality). I’m talking more about wandering the streets, fighting off enemies based on what your glasses see, or triggered by location.

How about shopping? No need for fancy glasses here, but take your smartphone, point it at a loaf of bread, and see a sandwich being made to your specs, while the ingredients you choose are added to your virtual shopping basket. An example of ‘bricks and clicks merging’ as Mike McNamara, CIO of supermarket chain Tesco, points out in the video below (augmented reality starts at 3:23 if you want to fast forward). He reckons that augmented reality is ‘as broad as your imagination’ – so how would you use it while you shop?

via TescoMedia

Others who have taken augmented reality on board include Aurasma who are producing image recognition software which will…well, augment reality. The examples I have seen include a beermat that when held and scanned on a phone will replace the image with a 3D version of the F.A. Cup (cool) and bringing Iron Man to life (cooler).

So we’re getting closer, but these uses are all fun and games. Are there any serious, practical uses? I had a think and a bit of a dig. Turns out it could have some very serious and very practical uses. Such as astronauts on their way to Mars (yeah, I know) performing surgery on each other if necessary, aided by computer graphics overlaid on the patient showing the ‘surgeon’ how to proceed. How about soldiers wearing contact lenses that project information and maps while they scan an area?

For now though, before the future happens, I imagine things will be more like Battlefield Google.

But hopefully not as big a fail as this.

Where do you see augmented reality going? What’s the future? Silliness like gaming, or something more serious like soldiering, or the middle road, helping you with your shopping? Let me know in the comments, or if you prefer, on Twitter.