Going beyond RFID and QR codes: Augmented Reality

Recently, I attended the “InterACT! Conference” on behalf of Vibrant Graphics, where I was able to listen in on break-out discussions speaking of new, emerging trends and technologies.  Specifically, the focus of the conference was on social media, QR codes, and augmented reality. 

These technologies  have oftentimes proved to be very useful.  However, there are concerns of where this technology is heading.

 I know we’ve all seen it – people driving with not only their cell phones in hand, but also laptops in the passenger seat.  With the anticipated media-saturation of augmented reality, let’s hope this technology stays off the road!

 Augmented reality (AR) is the blending of the physical world with partially virtual computer generated imagery.   Augmented reality is ‘real time.’  For those who have not yet seen examples of augmented reality, here are four examples, each implementing AR in different, useful ways:

 iButterfly: allows users to ‘catch’ butterflies in the ‘air’

hotels.com: (virtual vacation): allows users to have an interactive experience when choosing their vacation destination.  In Los Angeles, you can have your name appear on the “Hollywood sign.”

Lego: allows users to interactively see how ‘the toy in the box’ will function

USPS: allows users to choose which box size is appropriate to ship their object in (the demonstration is at the one-minute mark in the video)

For example, USPS allows a user to print out a ‘marker’, which the user will hold up to his or her computer, and it will simulate which size of package the user will need in order to ship the object.  This also is very helpful for retail shopping, as consumers can virtually try-on the clothing.  Another helpful instance would be during furniture shopping: the user could print a marker, place it on the floor, and point his or her webcam at the marker.  The image would appear on the computer, and the couch would be virtually placed in the room. 

While it may be clearly helpful in several instances, has technology gone to far?   

The ‘privacy issue’ troubles many people.  Will there one day be a way that this will be used as facial recognition software on your iPhone?  How many people will share location data with programs such as Google Latitude (and who will have access these programs–criminals?).  Virtually anything can be scanned and scrutinized.  There is real-estate information available on the augmented iPhone applications, where the user is able to view available condos or apartments for sale or rent.  What if the whole world became a virtual e-bay?  Would someone break into your house to obtain an expensive artifact you were innocently trying to sell on eBay?

 Beyond the privacy concerns, how will children be affected?  In a commercial advertising the iButterfly application, children are shown trying to “catch” virtual butterflies with their iPhones.  In the year 1995 and below, children dreamed of doing something like this, or playing with objects that would “come to life.”  Now the child does not even have to think or utilize his or her imagination, because it is reality to them.  Will this take away imagination or critical thinking skills?

 With the emergence of new technologies such as this, there will once again be an even larger digital divide.  By 2012, 65% of phone owners are projected to own smart phones.  What if this leaves no room for the voice of the ‘have-nots?’

 These are just a few critical components to think about as we emerge into unchartered territory.  I could see a couple of reasons WHY Vibrant Graphics should utilize this technology.  For instance, this would be useful when customers place a personalized order and want to know how labels will look on a particular model.  How would you implement it in your life at or outside of work? What do you think about it?

Here are ten interested augmented-reality iPhone applications:  http://mashable.com/2009/12/05/augmented-reality-iphone/

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Filed under Digital Media, Digital Printing, Packaging, Uncategorized, Vibrant Graphics

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