augementedreality headline 0 Future of Media Tech: Augmented Reality

Photo Courtesy of Treks from Flickr.com

By Ethan Lyon, Senior Writer

In 2005, Tiger Telematics made an attempt to bridge the gap between real and virtual worlds by creating a device that overlaid computer-generated graphics over real world objects—called augmented reality, or mixed reality. Using a camera to view the real world, Tiger Telematics sought to give users a chance to alter the world around them with virtual cannons that could fire upon intruders—a digital combat scenario that could take place on your work desk. The product of their design was the Gizmondo.

In the four short months after its launch, it sold a mere 5,000 units in the U.K. and Tiger was bankrupt. Arguably, Gizmondo did not cause its failure to launch. The company lost $240 million dollars while key management players robbed the funds allotted for marketing and other business expenses.

Under new management, Gizmondo 2 is slated to launch in the Fall of 2009. Though the failure of Gizmondo could weaken the viability of an augmented device in the market, not surprisingly, the iPhone is integrating the same principles of the failed gaming device to its framework. Tonchi Dot and ARToolworks are already creating apps that utilize augmented reality technology for Apple’s phone.

The Gizmondo and iPhone change your reality on a small screen, but to be completely immersed in the reality is what Canon’s MR [mixed reality] Aquarium is all about. The prototype utilizes a head-mounted camera, VR goggles and a computer to experience what life underwater might be like. The difference between Canon’s MR Aquarium and Finding Nemo is Aquarium’s virtual fish swim around wherever the user is standing. If, for example, you were standing at a bus terminal, schools of fish would swim about the street in front of you and around the people next to you.

GE has created some buzz around their augmented reality exploration. It’s a great way for anyone with a printer, webcam and internet connection to experience augmented reality. No longer do you need a separate gaming device to experience this blended reality. Simply print a PDF from the GE website, hold the piece of paper up to you camera while on the site and what unfolds from your paper is a pristine virtual world. Wind turbines rest in a green pasture and a sun illuminates your augmented world. As you move the paper, your world follows you.

We’ve talked about gaming applications, but what about consumer applications? Already iPhone and Android users can scan barcodes that can direct the user to consumer reviews and competitor pricing. Imagine a barcode said more. LEGO did just that in their kiosk in Disney Orlando. Simply wave your barcode in front of the computer screen and the object inside pops up on top of the box. Take consumerism and AR and put them together, and that can of Goya beans says more than nutritional contents—instead it tells you how to make a three-bean casserole as if you were watching the Food Network.

Bringing AR into the media realm is a company called Total Immersion—an innovator and leader in AR development. With such clients as PSA, Renault, GM and BMW, Total Immersion seeks to bring AR into many facets in our lives, such as cars, presentations and TV. Their impact on the future of media and one platform device could lie within their ability to recognize print, as demonstrated here. Simply point your device to a newspaper and out springs 3D advertisements and possibly news.

The AR, “beyond human” experience is the next step on our path to escape into another world. This emerging technology is part of Sparxoo’s Houdini trend. The Houdini trend is all about finding fresh and unique ways of getting out of the here and now reality of this world for the endlessly imaginative world of gaming. As we explore ways to get away from work, school, kids and other stress-causing environments, augmented reality will be the next step in our complete immersion in another world.