There is no clear delineation between modern augmented reality — what Google is hyping with high-profile glasses — and rudimentary uses of the technology with which the public already is quite familiar.
Superimposing street names and routes on a GPS device is augmented reality (AR). The more modern version of the technology, however, will be far more flexible and used for a far greater number of purposes than figuring out how to avert a traffic jam.
It’s an attractive sector because it offers compelling applications across any sector that comes to mind. For consumers, it can display the names of hotels and which has a vacancy across the screen of a pair of connected glasses. AR can show the location of restaurants and their wait times and menus. Those same glasses can be used for corporate training and research, to help students, to keep soldiers, cops and fire fighters safer or to guide a surgeon performing an operation. In other words, the gating factor on the benefits of augmented reality is the needs and imagination of users.
IDG News Service, in a story posted at Network World last week, offered an upbeat view of its perception of where the augmented reality sector is. In September, the story pointed out, Google’s Motorola Mobility acquired Viewdle. The deal is significant, according to IDG’s Mikael Ricknäs — though the precise way forward isn’t set:
Beyond confirming the deal, Motorola isn't commenting on how it plans to use Viewdle's computer vision technology -- one of the cornerstones of current augmented reality systems -- which can be used for face, object, and gesture recognition. But the deal shows that there is a growing interest in augmented reality, according to Daniel Gelder, vice president of marketing at augmented reality vendor Metaio, who believes that all smartphones will come with augmented reality in two years.
The story also notes that the number of attendees at the insideAR conference rose, which is another good sign that the sector is on the upswing.
The most newsworthy element of AR during the past few months is the buildup to Google Glasses, also known as Project Glass, which last month were trotted out for Fashion Week in New York City.
Now, it seems that Google can search and find some company. Last month, Vizix said that it will include a product called Star 1200 XL Wide Field of View See-Through Augmented Reality Video Eyewear. The company, which certainly could use some marketing pizazz, said that the product will have a price tag of $5,000 and a correspondingly niche market, according to the story at World TVPC.
To make this even a bit more futuristic, Google has won a patent for an AR watch. The Droid Life story says that the precise nature of the project is unclear. But the bottom line is that AR will be one of the frontiers of cool during the next few months.
Augmented reality is cool in and of itself. But what is particularly exciting, from a high level, is that technology has evolved to the point that something that seems so futuristic also is highly practical in terms of applications. In other words, the gap between the present and the future has been radically condensed.