Imagine watching the world through your phone in real time, and seeing a path marked for you along the floor of a shopping mall. It is leading you to the bookstore, past the magazines, past the thrillers, mysteries and travel guides and directly to that coffee table book about World War I aircraft your father has been talking about buying for six months.
You’ve just experienced “augmented reality.” Someone else just added something virtual to the real world that you can see if you are looking through the right “lens.”
What is Augmented Reality?
Picture a coloring book where the image you’re coloring comes to life when you point your smartphone camera on it. Well, Disney has created something similar, that allows children to see their 2D pictures turn into 3D characters after coloring them. That’s augmented reality.
Augmented reality is a technology that has been explored at length in a number of books and films over the years. It is different than virtual reality, which is a representation of a completely separate world from the real one. Augmented reality adds a little to the real world. Virtual reality replaces the real world.
If someone writes a note to you in the margin of your book or draws an arrow for you on a map, they are annotating a document for you. If someone were to draw a map over a real-time live video feed of a shopping mall, they are annotating reality for you. That’s augmenting the real world.
The New and Improved Theme Park
Disney is experimenting with coloring books that come to life while they are being worked on. As a child completes work on a new colored design, say a puppy or lion, the animal can move and react to the child’s movements through the additional “layer” Augmented Reality provides.
While this is certainly entertaining, the applications of this technology in fields like education and the arts are as exciting as emerging technologies get.
It won’t be long before theme park visitors will be able to literally summon their own parade on Main Street USA.
What Can Augmented Reality Do?
If you could add a new layer to the world for a friend, what might you show them? Could you write instructions for them to build a piece of furniture? Could you give them piano lessons? Could a father and son go to a baseball game together even if they were in different states? Not only are these things possible, given the right hardware and software they are already happening.
How Can Businesses Use Augmented Reality?
The commercial applications for Augmented Reality are beyond imagination. Systems designed for these applications are already being installed in data centers around the world. They are using network configuration best practices for maximum cost efficiency and reliability.
For example, what if an architectural firm or a construction company could walk a buyer through a building before it was even built? Imagine if they could literally see the structure built right on the land it is designed to occupy!
Now, imagine being able to alter the structure of that building in real-time right before the eyes of that real estate buyer! Want a bigger swimming pool? Done. How about the steak house in the hotel lobby instead of the grill? There it is. How about the Hawaiian theme instead of the western theme? Instantly there.
The possibilities only get more exciting as the applications of this technology expand. Want to show someone a dream wedding? How about a test drive in a car they’ve always wanted? Now how about test driving it in Morocco, or Sydney, or Buenos Aires? What if your shoe store had a visual search engine customers could navigate by a configurable list of options for shoes? What if they could design their own shoes right there in your store and see themselves wearing them before they order?
All of these things are possible, and businesses will certainly come up with even more incredible applications of this amazing new technology in the future.