Augmented Reality (AR) can be traced as far back as 1957 with the invention of Morton Helig’s Sensorama. During the decades that followed, AR was used in Manufacturing and Engineering, as well as the Airforce and broadened its horizons into the arts, in a production called Dancing in Cyberspace by Julie Martin.
That was 1994, almost ten years ago and developments since have been plentiful. Hirokazu Kato, of the Nara Institute of Science and Technology, invented the ARToolKit and this is widely acknowledged as the beginning of consumer AR and still the foundation of what is in use today. The year 2000 saw the first AR gaming event being hosted in South Australia where actual body movements advanced players in the ARQuake game. Players strapped on a computer back pack and actually walked around fighting off their gaming nemeses, no joystick needed.
AR hit Smartphones in 2008 with Wikitude, an App allowing Android users to take in the world through their mobile phone cameras and see augmentations, of nearby points of interest, on the screen. Not long after, Wikitude launched into Symbian and iPhone platforms and following this, the brand launched Wikitude Drive.
Another five years on and the techno ball keeps rolling. In April this year, the Honda Amaze was launched in India using an augmented reality box. The same box appeared in 51 Honda showrooms and consisted of a collage of photo’s, mostly in full colour and to the untrained eye – not innovative at all. Upon viewing the box through the dealership tablet, the walls of the box seemingly disappeared to reveal the new Honda Amaze.
From launching a car to losing a car. One of the most common questions in respect of AR is, “Can it find my car?” While vehicle tracking companies recover stolen or hijacked vehicles, the onus has always been on the driver to locate their vehicle in the ten storey parking area, after dark and with a very vague ticket. The industry is certainly heading in this direction to afford this added convenience to customers.
The MATRIX iPhone App also launched in April and makes use AR in its very basic form. Although positioning the vehicle is a core function of the App, various developments are still to be made to enjoy advanced AR functionality. Critics may see development as a waste of time and dub AR as a gimmick or a fad for the moment, but considering the whistling keys, Auto Finders and the like, the demand is steadily growing. AR is not a key feature of the MATRIX App; general assistance, roadside assistance and stolen vehicle reporting remain the principal concern, but manipulating AR going forward is certainly a focal point for the future.
Techno giant Google is making major breakthroughs in the field and the latest patent of the brand, Glass, has already been approved. Google Glass will make use of AR in grouping together already existing products such as maps and street views to culminate into 3D offerings and possibly live feeds. One expectation of the product is to assist with driver navigation, incorporating Google Maps and an overlay of navigation services into the real world; that is, if the eyewear is legalised for driver use.
Consumers are certainly intrigued by AR and as such, the technology is becoming a focal point for organisations in various disciplines. Advancements are hugely exciting and consumer benefits are clear; from pin pointing vehicles to self-driven vehicles, all advancements seem to have the consumer experience in mind. Experience is subjective by nature; the fate of AR will be determined by its success in convincing consumers, as a whole, that augmentation is better than and as reliable as authenticity.