Augmented Reality Comes of Age

Augmented reality, or AR. If you don’t know of it, you should. If you haven’t used it yet, you will. What used to dwell in the realm of science fiction and extreme geekdom is finding practical application in all kinds of areas, including marketing, packaging, exhibits, sales demonstrations, technical training, maps, architecture and entertainment. The possibilities are just beginning to be recognized. Augmented reality lets the user see the world around him with superimposed computer graphics that appear in 3-D animation, visible from every angle and following the sight-path of the viewer. In its simplest version, the user can print out a high-contrast black-and-white pattern of squares and point it at a computer webcam. The webcam reads it like a laser bar code and sends a fully formed image back that appears to come alive right on the paper in the user’s hand.

Try it for yourself. This video demonstration lets you bring Sasquatch to life right on your desktop. AR is already being put to use for marketing by several carmakers and companies like Lego, Dorito chips, and Pokemon. The virtual and the real have merged. You can’t witness these AR-based promotions without feeling that the world has irreversibly changed, and designers and marketers need to understand it because AR is not going away.