Aug — what?

Wait a minute, what’s this augment-schmaugment?

Well, here’s an easily recognisable example —

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, those of us born just shy of the 90’s had our minds blown by this. Who doesn’t remember the Terminator, with his hasta-la-vistas and his crazy skin burnt metal hand. But what really had us was six-year old John Connor pledge devotion to that machine was that he was fitted with the awesomest technology known (or unknown, then) to man.

Today, that’s called augmented reality. In the pre Google Glass era, augmented reality was hugely popular as the digital moustache/party hat/googly eyes that your web camera automatically placed on your forehead on the screen while you were wasting your time video chatting. Good times.

But lets talk about this seriously — for a technology that has been in operation for a good number of years, and has in fact, become more accurate over time, there seem to be so very few utility based applications out there. A technology with such vast potential to really engage users in meaningful processes, is sadly being exploited largely for marketing gimmicks. To keep things straight, there is absolutely nothing wrong with using AR to show off. In fact that’s the kind of demand that can be expected to spur further development. For instance, how can anyone deny what a awww-inducing campaign this is —

But still, as with any technology, one would eventually like to see it used to solve real problems; to make a real difference to the way we do things. But wait. There’s still some hope left. Out there, in the vast universe, if you search really hard, and fail, and then search again and fail again and so on, sooner or later you will find the gem which is an actual utility based useful AR app like this one —

Why is this seemingly simple app cool? For that very reason — its simple. It’s attempting to solve only one problem — does the box fit?(if only Prince Charming had Google Glass. Finding Cinderella would be a cinch!) But that one simple solution, with systematic advances, can potentially change the way packages are shipped.

And this one, *drumroll*, might change the way they are stored —

Decidedly, these are not the best that AR can offer. These functionalities are still in their nascency and a whole lot of work needs to be done. But the question that puts the quint into the essential is can AR provide real utility based solutions to the way we work, conduct business, interact or make decisions? We know it can. There are already promising advances being made for using AR in medical procedures to train and diagnose, for health and safety as demonstrated by the Guardian helmet by FUSAR technologies, or for just making shopping easier, like the beauty brand Sephora’s augmented reality mirror.

All in all, augmented reality is like a snowball hurtling down a mountain, gaining speed and taking all of us with it. Lets hope it’s the right mountain. So here’s to AR, to making our lives easier, and to the Terminator.

Hasta la vista, baby.

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