AR You Ready Yet?


The Terminator is the first action film that I remember and one that I enjoy watching again and again, even to this day. While I loved the series for the robots, future and convoluted spacetime, what caught my imagination was the “vision” of Arnie’s terminator.

All that analysis, statistics, status updates, and of course the ability to identify any person in sight. I am extremely bad with names and get myself into awkward situations where my goofy brain is unable to retrieve the person’s name, even if I have known the person for months and years. I would love to have an augmented display that retrieves peoples’ names instantly!

Augmented Reality or AR, is the basket of technologies that attempt to bring us close to this vision — by allowing computer-generated elements to supplement a direct/indirect live view of the real world.

AR has been around for more than a century as a concept of AR glasses (Google-glass like tech) in Frank Baum’s “The Master Key”; and as prototypes and real products since the late 60s when Ivan Sutherland created a Head Mounted Display system that he called “a window to the world”.

Tom and David’s depiction of a Head Mounted AR display

The term “Augmented Reality” itself is attributed to Tom Caudell and David Mizell from their article for Hawaii International Conference of System Sciences.


We have come a long way since the early prototypes. Pictured here is an expectation of the Smart Contact Lens developed/patented by the Google X labs

We have come a long way since the early ideas, and there have been various implementations of AR technology in the last couple of decadess, but the advent of mobile devices and wearable computing, and the increased network availability coupled with reduced footprint for storage and processing power, has brought us to the moment where AR, and it’s close sibling VR (Virtual Reality) are prime for mainstream.

My first experience with AR was using the X-Box Kinect a few years ago — some of the games/experiences on Kinect could detect furniture around the room, and place objects on the furniture that I could interact with. While I have been following the progress of this technology over the last few years, the increased processing power of mobile phones has brought us a new type of AR experience — where apps on the phone can bring day-to-day objects to life.

My primitive prototype of my interactive profile. Please note that this is experimental and not my current profile, nor am I looking to apply for a new job right now ;)

Consider this interactive profile that I created for myself (“enchanted profile”, if you will). Visit my experimental Layar campaign from your Mac/PC and download the Layar App on your phone. Point your browser to https://www.layar.com/mobile/ and the page should take you to the appropriate store. Once you have the app running, point to the campaign page and see the magic! Well, not really — but the magic can be more when the objects can turn from 2D to 3D, for example, especially from newspapers and publications.

For real magic using Augmented Reality, see the mind-blowing Ted talk by Marco Tempest below:

Applications for AR are endless, and most of them are real and ready to implement right now. And with the flurry of new gadgets in the market including Microsoft’s Holosphere, Google Glass (version 2 is apparently on the way), Meta to name a few.

AR can make print media fun again, and help track the reach, and relevance of print material. AR can be helpful in developing more useful manuals or self-help apps. AR can make signs, boards and visiting cards more practical and help enhance marketing and boost sales, if done right. And of course, there are games and Google’s Ingress.

Combining AR with wearable devices, and innovative display/interaction elements, as with the SixthSense, we are entering a world waiting to come alive in new and mysterious ways.

The Terminator may not be here, but the future is here. AR you ready yet?

A great example of a good Mobile AR app. See the combination of restaurant info, menus, location/map updates, local news and a Taxi with updated status.