Sunday, 25 August 2013

Augmented reality

One of the areas that I’m quite interested in is augmented reality – where computer-generated images and information are superimposed on, well, what’s real! You see it a lot in sci fi movies where information about weapons appears on a heads-up display. But there is much more to it than that, nowadays, augmented reality can be found in aviation and tactical displays, in lots of gaming and video devices, and in training and simulation tools – which means it can be used for business and for leisure.

For example, suppose you were standing in an unfamiliar town centre and wanted to find an Italian restaurant. An augmented reality display could not only show you in which direction the restaurants were and how far away, it could also show you the menu and prices, and also reviews. I thought it would be interesting to see what was in the news about augmented reality – just to get a feel for how things are progressing.

Well, the first thing that I saw at was that Google has bought a portfolio of Head Mounted Display (HMD) patents from Foxconn’s Hon Hai Precision Industry for its Google Glass project. Google Glass is a wearable device with a head-mounted display.

There’s another Google Glass story at showing how Google Glass can be used as an automated tour guide. You need to use an app, called Field Trip, which is made by Google-owned Niantic Labs. The app tracks a user’s whereabouts and automatically delivers alerts and informational snapshots about nearby historical landmarks, tourist attractions, restaurants, and local shops. Apps for Google Glass are apparently called “Glassware”.

Meanwhile over at is a story about German research institute Fraunhofer MEVIS, which has “created an app that lets surgeons use the iPad as a real-time viewfinder during surgeries. Not only does the app let doctors better plan their operations, but it also gives them digital overlays of key blood vessels.” This helps surgeons not cut through blood vessels – although holding an iPad and performing surgery would be quite a skill!

Even IKEA is launching an augmented reality app, which enables shoppers to preview furniture in their own home from their own home using a smartphone or tablet. Customers look through the printed catalogue, and when they come to a plus symbol on a page, they hover their phone or tablet over it until a screen pops up asking them to scan the images on the page. At that point users will see the bonus features, which could be a 360-degree view of a room, videos, additional product information, or the option to place a piece of furniture in their room – according to

At, we find out about an augmented reality app for visualizing construction job sites called SmartReality. JB Knowledge Technologies, who developed it, says the iOS app is the combination of AR and construction technology. Users focus on a given design or plan file with the camera on their iPad

The article also mentions Maptek Pty Ltd, who have an app (PerfectDig) for the mining industry, allowing operators to use handheld devices to compare laser scanned surface data during excavation against 3D mine plan designs for conformance in the field.

And can you believe that Häagen-Dazs, the ice cream-maker, has launched an augmented reality application called “Concerto Timer”, which provides consumers with a virtual violin concerto while they wait for their ice cream to reach an ideal temperature and consistency. The virtual melody lasts for two minutes. You can read more at

And in the “me too” world of technology, you’re probably not surprised to find that Microsoft may be working on a pair of augmented reality glasses for Xbox gaming, according to a patent application published last week. There are more details at

According to a market research report of the “Augmented Reality & Virtual Reality Market” at, the market could be worth $1.06 Billion by 2018. So it’s no wonder lots of companies are getting involved.

If you haven’t come across Augmented Reality (AR) yet, it looks like you very soon will.

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