Where do we go from here?

Recent months has seen more and more augmented reality apps making their way to our Smartphone's, giving users lots of fun and extra content, from companies such as Starbucks to Top Gear magazine. But as much as people use augmented reality, know augmented reality, most will not know it as that, will not know it's name and might not even realise they are seeing it at all. Take sports broadcasting, for example. Here we are constantly seeing examples of augmented reality [AR]. When the commentator talks of a certain move, we may see computer generated arrows appear on the field, incorporating real life footage with computer graphics. This can be taken as a basic definition for AR, the act of superimposing computer-generated graphics over a real world environment, giving users a virtual experience. Despite being around since the nineties, AR has only recently begun emerging for consumers, the recent batch of Smartphone's and tablets working as perfect platforms for the technology. With a technology so young, it still has a long way to go, but is the fact that most people do not even know it by name a drawback? I will be the first to admit that until recent years, as I studied for a media degree, I would not have known what AR meant. It seems that only those in the media industry or who have a keen interest in technology might understand the term. People are using the technology all the time, hardly even aware of what it is. Maybe this is more of a weakness than a drawback, as despite the term being quite unknown, it is not hindering its success. With Top Gear magazine publishing the first augmented print magazine, allowing consumers to hover their Smartphone or tablet over certain pages and have video content pop out and companies such as Waitrose, Guinness and Starbucks integrating the technology as part of their advertising, it is clear that companies are having a lot of fun with AR. Although some of the apps may seem a little tacky, it's worth remembering that it is still in the early stages and this technology is set to grow and grow and grow. photo So we reach the burning question, where is it going to lead?According to Prof. Blair MacIntyre, director of Augmented Environments Lab, Georgia Institute of Technology, speaking to Pocket Lint, "we are already 80% of the way there with AR, but the last 20 is going to be hard." He went on to suggest that we will not see much improvement until head worn displays are introduced. This is not an uncommon assumption. Prof. Steve Feiner, Head of Computer Science at Columbia University shares this thought, believing it is something that will happen. However, Dr Georg Klein, a leading expert in computer vision and augmented reality, is not sure it is going to happen anytime soon. Again, speaking to Pocket Lint, he said, "HMDs (head-mounted displays) were meant to be the evolution of AR but people have stopped working on them. AR might only really take off when those are developed but there's a funding gap at the moment. None of the big companies are really investing in them." Does this mean that we aren't going to see much development in the coming years? Not at all. Blippar's Rish Mitra has his own thoughts on the matter and stated that, "the next big thing in AR will still be via smartphones, and we will see developments in the field of image, object, colour recognition. There'll be few verticals in the area where startups will find niche uses of this technology. Also, location layers and image recognition might merge to give users a more wholesome experience. In terms of beyond mobile, I do believe an AR eye-lens and glasses will evolve, but the gear needs to be lightweight, attractive and comfortable to wear." AR is still finding it's feet, but it is going to have a huge part to play in the coming years, not only on Smartphone's but with consoles such as Sony's Vita already developing AR integrated video games, we will see it become more accessible to consumers than ever before. vita There is no doubt that AR is going to become a bigger part of our everyday life, with or without head gear, and of course Virtual Generation will be here to keep you up to date every step of the way.