Location based AR: the Third Generation

July 5, 2010

Mobile Augmented Reality on consumer devices is not even 2 years old and already at its 3rd generation regarding richness of its content model.

Apart from the very rapid technological improvements this has mostly to do with the creative innovators who adopted the new medium. These innovators constantly look for new ways to enhance the experience by adding new layers of depth and interaction models.

Mobile- or Location Based AR?

Mobile AR is an often used term to set this class of applications apart from the mostly static, marker based AR applications where a webcam attached to a computer is used to link a 3D model t a printed graphical marker. This type of application is certainly less mobile than the application class we call Mobile AR, but the main difference is that the latter uses the observer’s location as a unique trigger rather than visual recognition of a marker.

Right now these applications are starting to merge, as image recognition and natural feature tracking becomes available as part of the mobile platforms (e.g. Junaio Glue which has been released a few weeks ago and Layar which will be enhanced with a similar feature soon).

All in all a better name for Mobile AR would be Location based Augmented Reality.

The 3 AR generations of Location based AR

To sum it up here a brief overview of the AR applications as we have them today, and we will be seeing in the near future.

First generation

Simple Points of Interest, providing location related information, also known as “Where Is…” layers. Example: nearest ATMs, Restaurant finder etc.

These applications are often looked at as being just a gimmick for what could be presented just as effective on a map or as part of a navigation tool. At the same time this is what got most of us hooked in the first place: wow, how cool to see where those restaurants are around me!

Second generation

Rich Experiences built around a theme in geo space. Example: 3D reconstructions of sites and buildings, rich image overlays etc.

This class of AR applications is true to the medium in a sense that the environment does play a crucial role in the visual experience on the mobile device’s screen. But it is still a one-way, “read only” experience where the user’s background and social context don’t play any significant role.

Third generation

Immersive AR Portals – the real world provides entry points for rich AR experiences based on various themes. These entry points lead to parallel experiences within different themes, enabling non-linear discovery.

Example: a highly visible landmark leads to an AR experience about history, education, ecology and more. The trigger is always fired by a real world object, but the AR portal extends the experience into the abstract world of imagination,  linking back to here and now. Personal and social context can be further enhanced by linking with social networks. These social networks are getting location aware right now.

So what do you think, will Augmented Reality as we know it evolve in this direction? Do we still have successful ATM finder applications and such in say a year from now?


One comment

  1. The bigger problem is not the technology, it is the ISP charge too much on data plan, forbide slow down the most user experience.

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