HElloo0OO0! I will show you the way.
Imagine yourself in a department store. You’re lost—alone and stranded somewhere in hosiery. What will you do?! How will you ever find your way to the shoe department? Take a deep breath. Look around you. Are those LED light bulbs on the ceiling? Take out your smart phone, raise the camera so it can see the bulb, and pray that you’re right.
Yes! The LEDs are sending location information to your phone, which, via a newly developed indoor navigation app called ByteLight, provides you with detailed instructions: “Go the the end of the aisle. Turn left. Walk until you can see the escalators. Go up one floor. You are in footwear.” Weeping with relief, you accept ByteLight’s offer to give you detailed step-by-step directions to a pair of shoes that is on sale (in addition to providing navigational information to particular items or areas, it also beams you information about nearby deals).
For those of us for whom multitasking is a high art, a South Korean retail experiment combining grocery shopping with commuting looks like a godsend.
In a bid to boost online sales, grocery retailer Tesco covered the walls of a Korean subway station with photos of its merchandise arranged on store shelves. Each item was endowed with a QR code, those black-and-white squares recognized by smartphones, and commuters on their way in to work could snap pictures of the codes with phones to fill a virtual shopping cart. They paid for their items via an app, and the food was delivered to their homes after they got home from work.
No after-work grocery shopping crush, no squeaky-wheeled carts, no post-apocalyptic check-out lines. Just a little less time devoted to playing Angry Birds on the platform.
Welcome to augmented reality psychology. The cockroach in the Tupperware is only in your mind–or your virtual reality goggles–and is part of an exposure therapy technique meant to treat those with extreme phobias.
Though traditional exposure therapy might require a person afraid of elevators to ride one repeatedly, or demand that a person afraid of cockroaches meet one face to bug-eyed face, the mere prospect of such experiences is enough to drive some patients out of therapy.
But perhaps, as described in a small study in Behavior Therapy, an augmented reality cockroach can provide all of the benefits without the ick.
There used to be a time when you could easily impress a date by pointing to the night sky and dreamily rattling off names of major stars, constellations, and the like. Now, instead of cramming your head full of names or making up stuff as you go along, you can use your trusty iPhone to guide you through your stargazing.
There are a bunch of apps that you can download, depending on your interest level and degree of expertise. Most of the apps are based on augmented reality–so all you have to do is point your phone towards the sky and the app does the rest.
If you’re a beginner, Pocket Universe ($3) and Star Walk ($3) are recommended by The New York Times for iPhone users; while Google Sky Map is great for Android users.
With Pocket Universe, you can use the camera view to look at the evening or morning sky, and the app will overlay the labeled view over the real sky. (The iPhone’s camera isn’t good enough yet to pull off this feat with a dark night’s sky.) The app also plots the position of the sun, moon, and planets, displays 10,000 stars, and traces the shapes of the constellations. Pocket Universe also features a “Tonight’s Sky” option, showing you a list of planets you can spot with the naked eye.
Just a decade ago, our unsophisticated brains couldn’t even conceive of items like the iPhone–never mind the iPad. Starting with the premise that the unimaginable can quickly become ubiquitous, a group of designers, futurists, and journalists recently sat down in San Francisco to try and imagine our lives in 2020. They focused on how technology will impact social interactions, travel, commerce, healthcare, and the media.
The ideas came thick and fast. One idea for the future is a “Thingbook” that would take augmented reality to the next step. Designers imagined that the Thingbook would catalog and index every visible thing. So if you see someone on the street wearing a cool jacket that you’d like to buy, all you have to do is look at it and your mobile handset or AR-equipped eyeglasses will identify the object and look up the best price and retailer, writes design mind.
Other ideas included the Whuffie Meter, wherein you can immediately access everything public about a person who is sitting across from you, as well as the Bodynet, which would instantly compute the result of that big burger-and-fries lunch.
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If you haven’t already cluttered your car with talking gadgets and navigation systems, then here’s something else you might want to pop into your driving machine one day: a new augmented reality windshield that’s being developed by General Motors. While the windshield is still years away from the assembly line, car enthusiasts and tech geeks are already getting excited about the idea.
The “enhanced vision system” aims to help drivers navigate through dark or foggy conditions. The system would alert the driver by highlighting landmarks or outlining obstacles like a running animal on the windshield to help the driver avoid collisions.
Here’s how it works. A bunch of forward-looking sensors, including infrared sensors and visible cameras on the windshield, gather data on the external environment. Three other cameras inside the car track the driver’s head and eyes to determine where he is looking. Both sets of data are then paired up so that the enhanced views can be projected on the windshield, overlaid over the actual scene outside the car. This enhanced view or “augmented reality” would clearly point out obstacles on the road, so the driver can avoid them. GM suggests that GPS directions could also be projected onto the glass, so the driver doesn’t take his eyes off the road.
Augmented reality, the blending of real-life environments with computer generated imagery, has provided a bunch of creative applications, including a virtual tattoo. Now, the same technology can be used to identify virtual strangers.
A new app called Recognizr, developed by the Swedish mobile software firm The Astonishing Tribe, lets you find out more about a person–including what social networks they are on and in some cases their phone numbers–simply by pointing your camera-phone at them (see video below). The app works by mashing up the latest in facial recognition software, cloud computing, and augmented reality.
But before privacy advocates storm the offices of The Astonishing Tribe, we should note that the app only works on people who have opted in to the system. People have to sign onto this service, submit a profile, and upload a picture to be picked up by Recognizr. So you needn’t scramble to delete all your pictures on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, since Recognizr works only by mining information off its own database.
If you’ve been dying to get a kick-ass dragon tattoo but feel like it might not go over well with prospective employers or your mom, then here’s a sneaky, roundabout way to satisfy your yearning. You can get the tattoo using augmented reality–and for an extra dose of kick-ass, the dragon will flap its leathery wings.
The concept was developed by a Buenos Aires-based software company called ThinkAnApp. In the video below, you’ll see a guy’s arm tattooed with what looks like a plain rectangular box. But that box is essentially a barcode. The company has devised a camera with special software that reads this barcode, and then superimposes an animated image.
When viewed through a specially equipped camera, the seemingly plain box design suddenly displays a three-dimension dragon. The possibilities for art projects, information distribution, and social engineering via body art inherent in this idea are fascinating.
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Trying to pack everything into a European vacation can leave you with little time to do activities you actually enjoy. European researchers involved in the iTacitus project are working to solve this problem by tapping into augmented reality, a technology that blends real world information with stored digital data.
The researchers want to create a virtual time machine for tourists who like to snap pictures. The program would use these photos to search for historical information based on the location, and create a “smart itinerary” so travelers could navigate from place to place.
First, you’d have to snap a photo with a smart phone or camera. Then the image would be downloaded to software stored on a central server, and you’d instantly have access to cultural and historical information about the place you’re visiting. Science Daily reports:
“[Tourists] can look at a historic site and, by taking a photo or viewing it through the camera on their mobile device, be able to access much more information about it,” explains Luke Speller, a senior researcher at BMT in the United Kingdom who oversaw development of the technology.
“They are even able to visualize, in real time, how it looked at different stages in history,” he adds.
Along with museums and tourist boards, the researchers hope that tourists will also contribute their travel experiences so they can build up a database of user-generated content.
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Image: flickr/ Ben