General Electric is running an ad featuring Augmented Reality for the masses at the Superbowl, Mini convertibles live their 3D life in magazines (as ads), Lego is selling toys with Augmented Reality boxes. I’ve been posting Augmented Reality examples a lot during the past months and one thing is for sure: it’s not just for geeks anymore. Real companies are using it to sell real goods or to save real money (Ford Ka, see my recent post with the video).
But is that a good thing? Metaverse blogger Curious Raven wondered today if „it’s too early for Augmented Reality“, drawing parallels to the virtual reality hype in the nineties (you remember the sci-fi like data-suits and grotesque head-mounted-displays?) which was too early because the tech was not ready and disappointments great.
While I agree with Curious that the Gartner Analysts have it wrong this time, placing Augmented Reality applications in the „Technology Trigger“ phase, which would mean that the technology will not be adopted by mainstream within the next ten years, I don’t think that it’s too early to for Mixed Reality for the masses. Why? Because some usable products already exist (see below) and because virtual reality never came in the range of being accessible to even the greatest nerds (except those working in research). And following the highly accepted Gartner Hype Cycle again, that places the mainstream adoption of Mixed Reality in the 2-10 year range. I personally think it’s well below 5 years.
Why do I think that the brilliant Gartner analysts missed something that I see in the near future? Because sometimes technologies get a burst from a totally unexpected area – for AR I think that is „camera and Internet-equipped mobile phones for the masses“. Because anybody, from kids to DINKS, can use their cell phone to log-on and take pictures or videos anytime. Meaning: With an iPhone or G1 Android phone anybody can aim their built-in digicam at a printed symbol in a paper magazine and they’ll suddenly see a Mini convertible driving around. Without a computer anywhere near! Well at least early adopters are able to install those apps at the moment – wait till Xmas, and you’ll be the one getting a card enhanced with AR.
Ok, let’s see all these great examples:
Here’s a collection of interesting Augmented Reality examples in entertainment, research and business by blog NOTCOT.org (Mini, Xmas card, Lego, FLARToolkit etc.)
One recent and outstanding example is missing in that collection: The General Electric campaign that puts „a digital hologram in your hand“. I call that „Augmented Reality for the masses“. Here’s the video of what you can do:
And here are the 5-step instructions to play with the windmills and more in your very own palm of your hand (all you need is a printer and a webcam).