The future of Augmented Reality, May 10

The future of augmented reality
And how it could change the brand, service and combat experience

By Debbie Meltzer

My 13 year old, daughter just told me about her incredible afternoon at the mall. At the entrance, a digital poster recorded her height and gender and helped her select suggested shirts. It even beamed up the stores’ shelves they were displayed on. Upstairs in one of the stores, a life-size digital mirror superimposed shirt designs on her reflected image. A virtual touch screen let her change colors and styles without trying them on.

She tried to display her “virtual fashion show” during a mobile video conference to her friends, but couldn’t work out how. She clicked a V-guide that walked her through, featuring a color-coded overlay with video instructions. As she walked out, her mobile displayed an ad showing her a real life map of nearby eat-outs with pop-ups of discounted lunch options.

Truth is, my daughter is five. But by the time she will turn 10, or even 9 Augmented Reality (AR) based applications such as these will clutter mainstream marketing.

Augmented Reality is a budding technology mostly used in smart phones to superimpose digital data on the real world. The concept of augmenting the real world with virtual rich data raises our multi-sense experience to exciting new levels.

To date, AR almost exclusively referred to smart phone applications like Yelp (,_Inc.) and Acrossair (as in the Stella Artois iPhone application

Industry hopefuls are eager to see the creative for mobile ads generate new revenue streams while pandering to consumers growing appetite for the “augmented” experience. If so, Augmented Reality could be on the verge of securing a profitable share from the mobile world.

Being such a high potential game changer, AR is bound to widen its reach beyond the screen of a slick smart phone. Industry leaders are indicating that digital signage, TV and more could not only follow suit, but gain a technology edge over the mobile world.

The strong connection between AR and mobile communication almost had us believe it was concocted in a corner booth at Apple or Nokia. AR was actually christened by Boeing employee Thomas Caudell in 1990 ( while helping workers assemble cables into aircraft.

In hindsight, it’s no coincidence that the technical service industry is at the forefront of some of the most innovative AR apps (see the BMW demo below Slashing service cycles, accelerating training and minimizing potential errors through AR applications can save millions in high-end manufacturing. Recognizing the potential, visual documentation company Optimum Group, Tel Aviv, is working on integrating AR into interactive documentation for their defense, aviation and manufacturing clients.

In the defense industry, training troops in simulations that project virtual scenarios on surrounding screens has become the norm. In future soldiers could carry video simulations in their helmets to help gather intelligence like correlating a face with information on the person’s identity. (

Gradually becoming more simple and accessible, AR could take on traditional media settings and join us in our living room. Researchers at MIT Media Lab are working on a TV enhancer called Surround Vision ( that enable smart phones to elicit popup images on the TV screen. Imagine viewing your favorite movie, and then delving more deeply into a scene within a scene at the bottom right of your plasma.

If commercialized, Surround Vision could usher in a new era of video entertainment. Even today sports broadcasts and other live television shows featuring footage from multiple camera angles are ideal candidates for the system. Children shows could be runner ups – Many already encourage audience participation. Finally the couch potatoes syndrome could be challenged. Maybe we could trade mindless mall shopping with “smart TV”?