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Monday, February 23, 2009

Augmenting Reality : Cellphones and Models

The NYTimes has an article: The Cellphone, Navigating Our Lives talks about the concept of augmenting reality. Specifically about new cellphone interfaces that can paint data on top of images around them ... Linking together maps, location and mental models.

" ... Increasingly, phones will allow users to look at an image of what is around them. You could be surrounded by skyscrapers but have an immediate reference map showing your destination and features of the landscape, along with your progress in real time. Part of what drives the emergence of map-based services is the vast marketing potential of analyzing consumers’ travel patterns. For example, it is now possible for marketers to identify users who are shopping for cars because they have traveled to multiple car dealerships ... "
This article is mostly about the cellphone examples, but the possibilities are much broader. Have experimented with the idea for some time. Early on there were specialized interfaces that allowed you to look at a piece of equipment and look at a blueprint with the other eye in a monacle-style eyepiece. The concept is shown at the right (via `Virtual Reality: Through the New Looking Glass'', Ken Pimentel & Kevin Teixeira, McGraw-Hill, 1995)

An example of later developments looked at how to overlay abstract data from retail sales and profitability on top of virtual displays. A kind of augmented-virtual reality. Once you have data you can also augment a system with generated data from a model. Models that can predict results combined from both simulations based on the real world and from sets of data that augment that world.

Now that we have advanced smartphones, location capabilities and faster data links it makes sense that the augmentation of reality can be extended to new stationary and mobile applications. A brave new world approaches. The Times article is a good introduction.

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