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In Google’s secret X Lab Google plans to develop a pair of augmented reality glasses codenamed ‘Project Glass’ which will allow a hands free experience of augmented reality. This is planned to be done by utilising a heads up display integrated into a pair of glasses whilst commands will be executed by voice. This backing by a major company has brought huge media attention to AR. So we at Freedom Mobile set out to explore this technology, its future and what exactly has it to do with your phone!
AR in its basic form is a second layer to reality transposed on top of your normal view which interacts with the real world. Below is Nokia’s take on the technology:
As cool as having a pair of those glasses is, it’s basically having two transparent monitors slapped onto a pair of glasses; it isn’t truly augmented reality as it isn’t interacting with the real world. However it does look futuristic and you’ll be surprised to know you’ve been viewing it down the pub whilst watching live sporting events:
The yellow “first down” line seen in television broadcasts of American football games shows the line the offensive team must cross to receive a first down using the 1st & Ten system. The real-world elements are the football field and players, and the virtual element is the yellow line, which augments the image in real time. AR is also used in association football to show the result (or an advertisement) in the center circle. It is also used to display offside situations. Similarly, in ice hockey an AR colored trail shows location and direction of the puck. Sections of Rugby fields and cricket pitches display sponsored images. Swimming telecasts often add a line across the lanes to indicate the position of the current record holder as a race proceeds to allow viewers to compare the current race to the best performance. As an example of mediated (diminished) reality, the network may hide a real message or replace a real ad message with a virtual message.
Another current use allows fighter jet pilots to look ‘outside’ their aircraft; it may one day allow car drivers to not have the car’s chassis obscure their view.
What has this to do with phones? Well modern smartphones have all the ingredients to give you an augmented reality experience, ingredients such as: -
- GPS allowing the phone to know where you are to within a metre,
- Gyroscopes and accelerometers allow the phone to know your orientation and movements,
- An Internet connection give the phone the latest information required,
- A high resolution camera to view the real world
- And finally the processing power to create a secondary world and transpose it onto your camera image in real time.
Utilising all this would allow the user, for example, to search for an item whilst walking down the high street, the phone’s screen would then transpose directions to all shops that offer the item and at what price. Perhaps you enjoy stargazing but wonder what star, planet, constellation or even satellite you are looking at when looking at the heavens, augmented reality will tell you wat you are looking at, it will even tell you where a certain object is in the sky!
Software to do all of this is available right now. Layer browser is a search engine that gives you your results as information transposed onto where they would be in the real world. It is easier to watch this video to understand its possibilities:
Google released an app called ‘Google Sky’ which allows the user to name objects in the night time sky and find stars and planets by simply holding the phone to the sky. The phone’s screen then tells you what you are looking at or gives you directions to whatever star or planet to wish to view.
What you’re basically getting is how Arnold Schwarzenegger views the world as the Terminator, assessing his surroundings to decide whether your boots, clothes and motorcycle are indeed a perfect fit for his physique. An app for viewing your current kill count isn’t currently on the market nor do I think would pass Apple’s strict market rules!
Gaming is also beginning to make use of augmented reality. The Nintendo 3DS comes with AR games built in, utilising cards to determine its position in the real world. Enemies are then transposed onto the camera view and appear to move around within the confines of the real world. You are free to move around and shoot the enemies at any angle as if you had a gun in your hand.
There are plenty of similar games are available on mobiles by simply searching the markets for augmented reality games, but I feel that it was important to point out that both Nintendo, Google and Nokia are taking this technology seriously. This is still very early days and we here at Freedom Mobiles are pretty excited to see where this technology will go.