Will 2013 be the year that AR infiltrates the mainstream?
Augmented reality (AR) is one of the hottest current trends in the developer community, and it is set to explode into the mainstream in 2013. While it has been gathering momentum over the past few years, I reckon that this year, AR will become a part of everyday life for the average mobile user.
For those unfamiliar with the phenomenon, AR provides a view of a real-world environment, which is augmented by computer-generated sensory input. This input can be sound, video, graphics or visual information.
There are already some popular examples of the use of AR in mobile apps. Take a look at Android Tapp’s top five AR apps for Android. Wikitude allows users to engage with their immediate surroundings by providing information on nearby places. Street View on Google Maps is another app heralded in the list. It allows users to see popular landmarks, check out places they want to visit (near and far), and ‘take a virtual trip around the world’. But it’s the app that takes us beyond the world that really struck a chord with me: Sky Map.
An official Google app, Sky Map uses AR to allow users to interact with the night sky. You just have to point your smartphone at the sky to find out which star, constellation or planet you are looking at – great for those with more interest than knowledge of what’s going on above their heads. The app uses GPS and compass data, as well as the date and time, to show a labelled map of the observed area. The automatic mode gives information about the area in your field of vision, and the manual mode allows you to explore the sky on your own. You can also find the specific location of a star or planet. Want to pinpoint Mars? Just click search and type Mars to take a trip through the night sky to find it.
In my eyes, Sky Map is the best example of an AR app for Android from 2012. What makes 2013 so exciting, though, is the potential to build on the foundation laid by such apps. There’s a challenge, though. For objects in an AR scene to appear ‘real’, they need to respond as fast as reality. This is another exciting area for growth in AR apps in 2013.
One type of AR app that is ready for improvement is the book/magazine app. Getting out a phone, loading the app and pointing the camera at the page is not asking too much from the user; but they then have to wait for the software to recognise the page and keep the phone pointed at it, while also interacting with the app. AR reading apps are great in theory, but users may get a tired arm, or break the connection by moving the book/magazine to a more comfortable position. When developing an AR app, don’t forget how the user still needs to interact with the real world, by turning a page, for example.
Smartphones, tablets, and convertible tablets are all increasingly available with sensors that facilitate AR possibilities. This opens up interesting opportunities for developers to create sensor-based applications. The best current and future examples of AR apps allow the device to recognise an object or location, extract information about it and – here’s the crucial part – do something interesting, exciting or fun with that information. Put bluntly, AR provides something that reality alone cannot. What aspects of your reality would you like to see augmented?
• This blog post is written by Softtalkblog, and is sponsored by the Intel Developer Zone, which helps you to develop, market and sell software and apps for prominent platforms and emerging technologies powered by Intel Architecture.