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Augmented Reality and its role in our digital future

Alex Christie

2 September 2009

Augmented reality is not a new concept, but its’ implementation is a little slow on the uptake. Apart from thousands of impressive movies on YouTube, there is very little available for the general public in terms of an actual product. In fact, the only ‘hands-on’ time the public has with the technology is through gimmicky promotional materials for brands with a lot of money (racing a BMW Z4 on my desk was great fun though).


Augmented reality works by overlaying computer generated content over the real world.

The process is simple; you install some basic software, print out a page with a ‘marker’ on it and place it in front of a webcam. This marker gives the software basic information about the dimensions and layout of the ‘real world’ environment. On your screen you are presented with video streamed from your own webcam with the computer generated content overlaid on it.

While it may currently only be a cheap marketing angle, the future implications of this technology is well worth getting exited about.  Once the price of a processor falls below that of a piece of paper and the inevitability of them  becoming implemented in almost every aspect of daily life, from soda cans to clothing, our surroundings will become ‘smart’.

In this highly networked and ‘smart’ future we will always be in contact with the digital world around us. Imagine having an overlay of information in your glasses: Peoples ‘future Facebook’ profiles pop up in your field of vision as you walk past them in the street, ‘scanning’ a product in the window of a shop or on a billboard (or even on another person) will have all its information and user reviews displayed adjacent to it with the added option of ordering it straight of the internet.

Digital social networking will merge with real life networks: GPS technology will let you know who of your friends are within your current vicinity and what they are doing. Meeting up with someone nearby for lunch will be as easy as sending an instant message, finding the closest restaurant (with menu’s and prices), overlaying navigation right on the street in front you and even ordering while on the way there will be taken care of by technology.

This future is not far off as all the ground work has been done, all the concepts have been proven and the technology exists.

The future is upon us, and it is even more social than we have imagined…



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