Monday, October 14, 2013

Not Sci-Fi anymore...why Augmented Reality is more real than you think

MUNICH- Guest post from David Marimon, Catchoom CEO

There are two things I want you remember after you read this blog:
·       AR is here and it has practical, everyday uses with sound technology
·       The market is accepting using it faster than you think
I want to show you why these things are true through an example, Audi.
Not long ago, we were hearing many skeptical voices talking about Augmented Reality (AR). Let me share a couple of anecdotes.
I remember in particular an attendee telling a panel formed by Layar, Metaio, Qualcomm executives and myself how nerdy we would look like with AR glasses. This was at Mobile World Congress in 2011.
Last month, I was speaking with the Head of Future Technologies at Pearson, a global publishing firm. She told me that AR is ready for the market and not something for the future, but they just need to figure out the best business model for everyone to make real money.
I could not agree more.
So what is she and others referring to when they say AR is ready? Let’s take a couple of recent examples.
The Audi eKurzinfo app (demoed by Metaio for the first time at insideAR 2012) lets drivers have intuitive access to pages of the driver’s manual simply by pointing at the space in the car they’re interested in.
Is this new? Not exactly, one of the first implementations of AR was actually in car maintenance with mechanics – using big goggles connected to a laptop to make access to information so they could perform maintenance on the luxury cars. Does that surprise you to know that some of AR’s first uses weren’t even for games, to view an ad or other entertainment based things we have come to associate it with – it was utilitarian, functional and gave people access to information to do their jobs.
The changes are more subtle and at the same time more bold. Mobile has made a huge difference, but uses have too. Audi has been bold enough to deliver this application not only to their certified garages for skilled maintenance teams, but now into the hands of their prized end-users. And, this is the real change  - AR is not for techies anymore but for any user armed with a smart phone which is about 1 billion peoplearound the world today.
And, what about wearables?
Museums in Barcelona like the MACBA or MNAC have been using AR recently in their expos to showcase art or special exhibitions. Users equipped with an iPad and the Layar app can access alternative views or get detailed explanations about art pieces in the collection. Visitors of these museums aren’t necessarily art experts, so a little help from AR, makes the whole experience much more interactive and memorable.
In the last AR Meetup in Barcelona on October 3, I had the opportunity to talk to the different agencies who prepared those AR experiences. When asked what people thought about holding their arms with an iPad, the response was the same for all of them: we need glasses. Wow!
Just looking at the amount of wearables at AWE last June, this comes as no surprise, companies in this area have been around for a while but Google Glass has opened the door for a discussion around end consumers using them for AR, and not being a nerdy thing, which today is quite cool.