The augmented world: How AR apps will change your world

Using databases to provide real time information and help can be done in any number of creative ways and will increasingly become signature of the future.

Recently Nokia brought a Windows Phone 8 app to help jobseekers find roles in their local area. Called JobLens, the application uses augmented reality to show the user jobs in his or her current location. This means jobs in the area can be revealed on the user’s phone screen when the device is pointed in a particular direction. The app also displays information on the job role, the salary and the company.

This is one use of augmented reality technology which, as per Chintan Dave, director, technology, Prisma Global, is “basically a utility enhancement technology that overlays information available in the virtual world on a real world scenario.” Simply speaking, when you point your phone’s camera to an object or area, the augmented reality app scans it and fetches relevant information from the web.

Utility enhancer

Currently there are many applications on both Android and iOS that are optimised through augmented reality. Take Google Goggles, for instance, with it you can search things just by taking a picture by pointing your mobile phone camera at a painting, a famous landmark, a barcode or QR code, a product, or a popular image. If Goggles finds it in its database, it will provide you with useful information about it.

There are other such apps as well. For instance, Prisma Global is making an app called Snap2Search, which will allow one to search for a company or product by snapping a billboard, catalogue, magazines or posters.

“Snap2Search is a concept. We are trying to build a database of around a million brands and will upload it on our server. You do not have to search or go to the website to know about the brand; you just have to click the logo of the brand. Suppose, you are passing through a PVR cinema and want to know about what shows are currently running inside, you just have to click the logo of PVR and you will get to know about the shows running inside,” said Chintan while talking to The Mobile Indian.

Among other such apps is the Wikitude world browser using which you can get information on places, find restaurants, discover people and even play games – all through Wikitude’s field of vision.

Augmented reality has been used to make utility applications like Car Finder AR as well, which allows you to find your parked car, which is sometimes a big headache for people in metro cities.

There are applications like ‘iOnRoad Augmented Driving Pro’ as well, which will help you drive safely. “The app uses the smartphone’s native camera, GPS and sensors to detect vehicles in front of the host vehicle, alerting drivers when they are in danger. Our Visual Radar maps objects in front of the driver in real-time, calculating the driver’s current speed using native sensors. As the vehicle approaches danger, an audio-visual warning pops up to alert of a possible collision, allowing the driver to brake in time,” the developers of this application say on its Android page.

Another augmented reality based application called ‘Augment-3D Augment Reality’ that is available on Android store let’s you visualize 3D models and thus can be employed by businessmen who sell things. For instance, by using this application one can visualize the actual house to be constructed by pointing the phone’s camera to the floor plan of the house.

Use in games

There has been a lot of discussion about using augmented reality in games. Last year, Google came out with a game called Ingress, which is a massively multiplayer game based on augmented reality, in which players are expected to form alliances, complete tasks and uncover the mystery behind the energy discovered. Ingress involves a mysterious energy source unearthed by a team of scientists in Europe. The players can join either of the two teams – The Enlightened and The Resistance. The former is an alliance formed to embrace the power unleashed by a mysterious energy, whereas the latter is more about defending humanity by joining the struggle. There will be loads of cryptic clues, codes and other technologies required to secure the territories.

Players need to install the app and use the phone’s camera to locate and unlock the clues. Since this game will be played by users across countries, everyone can keep a track of other players. The intelligence map can help you communicate with your alliance mates.

A few other games on this theme like the Global Outbreak, have since been released, but haven’t yet clicked.

“Till now we play games in a static environment but with augmented reality we could play games in a live environment,” opined Chintan.

For instance, if you are bored of playing normal shooting games you can try DroidShooting on Android to try shoot targets in the real world (of course, you cannot blow them in real but you will see them blown up on your smartphone screen).

Even Marvel has tried its hands at augmented reality apps, called Marvel AR. However, the app has failed big time, which is obvious from the fact that it has 329 one star ratings out of a total 800 odd persons who downloaded it. “This attempt at augmented reality is a great idea but fails to execute,” opined a user on the page of the app on the Android app store.

As an educational tool

Apart from utility, augmented reality has immense use in education. Take the example of Augmented Reality Solar System, a virtual reality application that teaches you about our solar system in a novel, fun way. The application presents a virtual solar system complete with planets created over our custom designed trackable sheet. Planet Rotation speeds are based on actual NASA data.

However, there are not many notable apps in this department as of now.

Conclusion

Augmented reality has use in most areas, be it health, education, utility enhancing etc. Its needs are not that big either.

Any mobile phone or tablet with GPS, a normal 2 megapixel camera, and internet connectivity could take advantage of augmented reality apps.

“However, if you are working on augmented reality, a 3G connection is recommended,” said Chintan. India’s 3G network coverage does not paint a smooth picture though.

Of course, there has been a rise in the adoption of smartphones as well as mobile internet in India but there have not been many India focused AR apps so far.

Considering the rise of smartphones and the rapidly increasing mobile internet users in India, there is definitely a good possibility of adoption of AR apps. Especially considering the rise in educational tablets, AR apps related to the sector hold immense potential.

A push from chipset makers like Qualcomm is also seen as a strong force to further the cause of AR. Qualcomm had even gone on to say that future smartphones will feature augmented reality technology as seen in Microsoft’s Xbox Kinect. Qualcomm recently released a software platform called Vuforia, for application makers to create augmented reality apps.

But the need of the hour is awareness both about the existence as well as the utility of augmented reality.

Headline The augmented world: How AR apps will change your world

Publication – The Mobile Indian

Edition – National

Date – 6 August, 2013

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