…and you stay in Wonderland.
The term ‘augmented reality’ (AR for short) has become more mainstream as app and game developers embrace it, especially on mobiles. It is the stuff of sci-fi, and has been for quite some time, but it’s looking more and more real every day. AR is a live view of the real world that has additional information via computer-generated input, such as GPS, sounds, and graphics. Generally, AR works in real time so you get instant feedback and it changes as you use it.
That’s about as technical as I’m going to get. The easiest real world example that I can think of is a city guide. You hold up your phone with camera and GPS switched on and it pings information like restaurants, hotels, sights and attractions. Museums and galleries are increasingly getting in to an AR offering for their extensive collections of paintings and artifacts, and I’ve experienced the London Zoo app for myself which gives you animal facts and uses location data to show you where the nearest zoo facilities are.
AR has it’s practical uses, so now I want to talk about the unusual and the playful!
Lets look at games. The latest handheld consoles from Nintendo and Sony came with ‘AR cards’, which is just one way of using the technology in games. Each card has a black and white pattern on it (simpler than a QR code but very similar) that the game software would recognise and then display something, like a character, a vehicle, etc. With the Wonderbook, even the Playstation Move has been given an AR offering. There are a few limitations to AR cards – if you move the cards too fast or too far away from the camera, the images can be dropped, and of course you need to use the cards. As the technology advances and developers get more savvy, you can play AR games without the cards. These are just a small example of what’s out there.
AR doesn’t have to be visual. Zombies Run lets you experience a zombie apocalypse through your headphones. Based on your location, you will hear the haunting sounds of zombies and if you take a wrong turn, the sounds get louder. Every time you play, you contribute to your survival base and game stats. The Inception app is similar in that you plug your headphones in and experience something different depending on where you are, what time of day it is, and even how much ambient sound or light is around you.
With all that in mind, doesn’t it sound cool? The next step in AR will be interacting with the experiences. So perhaps you could create your own creatures in a game, choose where they might appear ‘in the wild’, upload the information and then other people can search out your creature. Or imagine a city guide made by its residents (yes, I do know that could go horribly wrong…). How about a map made by your loved ones, where they can leave messages for you to listen to when you walk past a significant location?
AR has great potential to unleash some creativity and perhaps convey some important messages.