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May 19, 2012

Beyond the hype of augmented reality

It’s official: augmented reality (AR) has hit the mainstream. With hyper-engagement and a real-life technological benefit, it’s no surprise that AR is catching on—and with gumption.

But you’ll see here that it’s more than just hype. It’s an evolution that is making its way into everyday tools to enhance not only information gathering but also communicating and sharing.

Image via TechRadar

Though augmented reality has been around in some way, shape or form since the nineties, with the ubiquity of smart phones and other portable technologies, it’s been taking off due to the contemporary social and technological environment. Project Glass, which is essentially a pair of glasses fitted with augmented reality, is one of those innovations that would seem to be relegated to the science fiction world. Google released a YouTube video dubbed “Project Glass: One Day…” in early April (which, by the way, now has over 15 million views). Google recently said that the final outcome will be a little different than its first release but regardless, the One Day video shows how technology shouldn’t interfere with your life but instead make it simpler and better fit for busy schedules.

Image via CNET

In a similar vein, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) teamed up with Innovega in order to create both contact lenses and glasses with augmented reality technology. “The contact lenses have a filter that allows a person to focus on images at a very close distance and focus on far-away objects at the same time,” wrote Martin LaMonica on CNET. “That means people can see both images projected on the inside of the spectacle’s lenses and whatever is in front of them. The contact lens-based system also provides a wider field of view than other heads-up displays, according to Innovega.” Cool, right? But don’t think AR is only fun and games because it’s usefulness is paramount. For instance, DARPA and Innovega’s iOptik innovation has the potential to have a positive effect on soldier awareness when they’re on missions.

Location-based augmented reality, by linking pertinent information with place, is one of the most used and most easy to understand forms of AR. The Nokia City Lens, which has an augmented reality browser, is like a little urbanite pal for your phone. City Lens lets you explore all the hidden gems of your city (or a new one) with ease. With a few taps on the screen, you can get a view of all of the details about the type of location you’re looking for—whether it’s public transit, a restaurant or an art gallery. You can also check it out in a list style or a map layout. Of course, you can share on your social networks with a quick touch. Reality, only better.

Augmented reality has the potential of transforming all sorts of industries from marketing to education, e-commerce and cell phones. Since personalization and interactivity are key to AR, it follows alongside broader social media trends, which have become a way of life for some societies. In addition to the unique factor, this innovation is an apt way to become immersed in technology but not let it overwhelm you.