There is a natural progression taking place in the ways in which people view and think about viewing augmented reality. The following article steps through this progression, providing examples, explaining where each method makes sense and ultimately looks to the future.
Desktop Computer/Web Cam/Kiosks/Projectors
Photo: USPS Priority Mail Simulator
The earliest, most recognizable and widest spread method of augmented reality viewing includes a desktop computer with web cam, a kiosk (which is essentially the same thing) or a camera, computer and projector. Each option offers the same low-tech experience: look at a screen and be amazed. Take Lego’s Kiosk as an example:
These simple applications are a great introduction which has the ability to reach the most people the fastest, but augmented reality is a 3 dimensional experience, and immobile solutions limit the depth and therefore the possibilities. A more practical long term solution would be to take all of our technology with us into the 3 dimensional spaces we live, forever freeing us from computer chairs and monitors. Thanks @colinhenson for the Lego video!
With the advent of ultra-mobile PCs with both user-facing and forward-facing web cams we have gained the ability to explore 3 dimensional space while still running the same simple, PC-based AR software as conventional desktop computers or kiosks. Mobile PCs extend the physical range with which we can interact with an augmented world, but in terms of usability, it still requires two hands and two eyes, which most people can’t afford to give anything these days, plus, who wants to walk around pointing a computer at things all day?
With the addition of GPS and compasses in mobile phones, our mobile devices have become platforms which recognize who we are, where we are standing, and exactly which compass direction we are facing. Now with just a phone you have all of the tools needed to make augmented reality function as it is truly intended to be used. Just take Layar, which has recently gone global, as an example of what is possible, and imagine from there.
HMDs – Head Mounted Displays
Photo: The Science Channel
Head Mounted Displays are a cute idea that brings the AR screen close enough to completely replace your natural vision with the vision of a camera. When you think HMD, think night-vision goggles, a large, expensive device meant to enhance your vision. This method is powerful because it frees up your hands, but it will require a high degree of R&D to slim it down, make it affordable and to get the resulting device to resemble something completely unobtrusive, like a pair of sunglasses.
Nokia recently released a video showing what they believe the future of augmented reality to resemble. If you watch the video, the glasses would be considered a highly advanced HMD, but the overall message they are sending is way off-base. Nokia’s vision of the future lacks depth and creativity and instead relies on a sexed up futuristic form of texting? Read this article for a more detailed review.
Photo: University of Washington
Each method of viewing augmented reality has brought the experience closer to the eyes while giving increasing amounts of freedom to the user. Once you unplug yourself from a wall, one of the last logical steps in this progression is contact lenses. Thanks to the pioneering work out of the University of Washington, in Seattle, augmented contact lenses might not be so far off. Give this article from IEEE a read to learn more about what the future might hold.
Tags: Augmented Reality