A look at Augmented Reality through the Google Glass

After I published Embracing E-learning 2.0, I had some great feedback from friends and other bloggers who are school teachers. Apparently, E-learning methods are a reality for some very fortunate children and I can’t wait for them to share the reaction of these students to the benefits of E-Learning but, in the meantime, I started digging a little further and as always, digressed slightly, but this time, I believe, it was worth the digression.

Why?

Two words – Augmented Reality

Can you imagine telling your children a fairy tale where the characters become alive as you turn the pages? (I personally would have saved myself a lot of happy yet, very sleepy moments). What? Your children will have grown up by the time this technology is available to all of us? May be not. Have a look at this interesting Youtube video:

Although AR technology has been used in gaming and in military applications on computers for years, we, laymen and women became familiar with the technology thanks to the sumperimposed vision of the unforgettable Terminator, back in the eighties. Since then we have seen examples of this form of immersive technology in various sci-fi flicks like Minority report, Robocop or Ironman.

Augmented Vision

What is AR?

The name says it all – reality as we perceive becomes augmented, and in most cases, enhanced in real time, by computer generated sensory inputs. Our perception of reality is altered, generally improved, by complementing our limited ability to perceive everything around us. Ultimately, AR generates a composite view for users that is the combination of the real scene as perceived by them in reality and a virtual scene generated by the computer that augments the scene with additional information like 3D characters, additional information, videos, sounds, etc. The goal of AR is to create a system in which the user cannot tell the difference between the real world and the virtual augmentation of it.

Mobile AR applications

Thanks to today’s sophisticated mobile devices, faster wireless broadband networks, and new developments at the chip level by companies like Qualcomm, it has become inexpensive enough to apply AR technology into smartphones and tablets.

In order to understand mobile AR applications try to think Wikipedia or TripAdvisor integrated into your mobile device layered on top of real-time images allowing you to see all the additional information via your phone’s camera and displayed on your smartphone’s screen. Pretty awesome, right?

For instance – imagine you are hungry and trying to desperately find a food outlet. There are multiple restaurants around you, but you don’t know where they are exactly or you are unable to make an informed decision about which to choose. Today, thanks to the new software on some mobile phones, you could simply point your phone’s camera at the buildings around you and the device will present you with the restaurants in your vicinity together with a layer of information about the various restaurants that appear on the screen. Or, if you were wanting to purchase a specific product in a store but wanted to compare its price, quality or availability in other retail store or online, you could very well  just  point your camera at the product and see a layer of information about it that could certainly help you make up your mind.

If you want to find out more about mobile AR applications, heck out this list of cool AR aps.

Google glasses

The ultimate gift. But, at an approximate price of US$1,500, the Google glasses are currently only available to a select group of developers. The fortunate few will get to experience first hand the latest AR gadget by Google, designed to let users capture video with a built-in camera as well as use apps, the internet, and social networking sites on the move. Users will be able to get directions to a destination, receive text messages,  converse with friends in a video chat, take photos or even buy a few things online as they walk around.

Isabelle Olsson, a Google engineer on the Glass project, explained that the company created the glasses “for people to interact with the virtual world without distracting them from the physical world,  to interact closely with your senses, without blocking them.”

She said Google had two broad goals in mind – communications through images and quick access to information. But, can the real interact comfortably with the augmented?  It seems so. Apparently, a small projector displays an image in front of the eye of the person wearing the glasses while letting them stay aware on the outside world.  The object is to bypass computers, tablets and smartphones entirely and keep the user connected in a discreet way.

Google Co-Founder Sergey Brin Sports the New Google Glasses at Dinner in the Dark, a Benefit for the Foundation Fighting Blindness -- San Francisco, CA

Google co-founder Sergey Brin told reporters that Google intends to sell the glasses for significantly less once the product is released to the mass market, possibly as early as 2014.

Would you be one of the buyers? Do you think it’s going too far? Are you keen to enhance your perception of the world with the help of AR technology?

I think I am.

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