Augmented reality (AR) allows for digital content to be layered on top of the content seen on your device’s screen, whether it’s a smartphone, mobile tablet, or computer. What does this mean? Basically, consider it to be something as common as a First Down line in an NFL game, or as complex as a simulation of a physical environment that you are not standing in. Augmented reality uses digital media, databases, and your device’s gyroscopic and GPS information to allow you to interact with content that isn’t really there.
You may recall that QR codes allowed users to “link” to online content by scanning a rather unattractive computer-generated image. One of the most powerful components of augmented reality comes from the ability to use a “visual search” – essentially using a camera mode to look for relevant imagery that links to online or multimedia content. So, aiming your device’s camera at an indicated image (think packaging, signs, brochures, wrappers, etc.) from within an app that relies on AR will connect directly to additional, supportive content.
Another well-used capability relies on connecting geo-locational information (points of interest) with additional supportive content (again, think tourism, cultural attractions, retail locations, 360° panoramic views, etc.).
This is simple. We are a mobile culture. We interact with content on an as-needed basis, and we determine when that is and what it relates to. With our mobile devices armed with augmented reality capabilities, whether it’s the apps we use, or the device that has AR baked in, we will be able to access additional information about the things we wish to learn more about. Scan a building facade for historical information, view additional color options while scanning a catalogue image, or find the next bench along the bike path if you need a break. Regardless, it’ll have an impact on what we do and how we do it.
There’s a little research behind this stuff too. Research firm Gartner Inc. proposes that augmented reality is one of the Top 10 strategic IT technologies of our time, and Juniper Research forecasts augmented reality will be responsible for a $1.5 billion revenue stream by 2015. That’s a lot of money.