Augmented Reality and Our Reality

A few weeks ago I went to the local Cineplex to watch a movie. The name of the film I saw is eluding me (must not have been that good), but the walk up to the theatre and back again stuck in my mind.


As I walked towards the ticket booth, I noticed several screens sporting animated photographers looking at their cameras and talking amongst themselves. Then, as I walked passed them, they snapped to life and started trying to snap my photo, begging me to strike a pose.


A few more steps to a second screen revealed the purpose of this nice ego boost.


It’s an advertisement for the Cineplex Magazine. You can go up to one of these screens and let one of these many photographers take your photo. A few more seconds, and the picture will be put on a digital cover of the magazine and emailed to your inbox. Of course, ads and promotions about the magazine are included in the package.

That’s right – coming soon to a theatre near you; augmented reality!

Augmented Reality


Plain ordinary reality is boring. At least, that’s what the providers of augmented reality products want you to believe. And really, who wouldn’t want to have access to the games and information that this medium claims to have?

When you think about it, dating app Tinder is really just a piece of augmented reality as well.

Augmented reality products aren’t restricted just to entertainment or the social scope. Many companies and brands are jumping on to this bandwagon as well. If advertisements can entice people to watch them out of enjoyment, rather than necessity well, branding would be a piece of cake!

With smartphones becoming so popular and affordable in the last few years, augmented reality campaigns have become a very effective way for brands to do just that.

Unlike conventional forms of advertisements, augmented reality ads allow consumers a high level of interaction with the brand.

Check this Ikea example out.  People could place Ikea furniture in their own homes using an augmented reality App. No assembly required.

Still, augmented reality advertisements are difficult to master. There are many examples of companies just missing the mark with this new form of innovation.  Moreover, these apps can be difficult to use. and they are hard to develop. Even small errors lead to lack of quality and coordination.

But when they work, they work well.

Advertising and branding opportunities not with standing, how does augmented reality change how we entertain ourselves, and how we live our daily lives?

Not New

Let’s look at the history first.

This technology is not new.

It was first alluded to in 1901. Then, in 1968, the first augmented reality headset was invented by Ivan Sutherland.

It probably isn’t something you’d want to wear. Called the Sword of Damocles, this head mounted display system was suspended from the ceiling while the viewer experienced computer fed graphics.

Image courtesy of Mashable

For creating this horrifying looking device,  Sutherland is commonly referred to as the “Father of Graphics.”

Since then, the technology advanced very slowly until it bloomed in the 2000s. In the new millennium,  the technology began receiving more attention as a way to, quite literally, change the way people see and experience the world around them. In the past few years, augmented reality has come to play a major role in the tech field, especially when it comes to mobile technology.

Even print ads have augmented reality components with those lovely QR codes. Want to see more? Scan the image with your phone to make it come alive.

There have been amazing advances in AR technology in the last 14 years. So what’s coming in the next few?

Out of touch with reality? New augmented reality tools coming our way.

Let’s look at some technologies that are coming our way


For those of you familar with Star Trek, the first item might sounds familar.

Microsoft is developing augmented reality technology that transforms an entire room.

Using projectors and depth cameras, players can dodge and interact with content displayed within the room. It’s an extensive set-up using projectors and Kinect units.

Roomalive doesn’t focus on a single wall. It uses several projectors to cover an entire room. There is software built in to it to detect surfaces, where they are and how they relate to the floor in the room. So don’t worry about tripping over that table.

Of course, there are tools for developers to build their own content.

Unfortunately it is just a prototype for now. There has been no mention of commercial availability, so it could be a while yet before we’re exploring space with the crew of the Enterprise.



This next bit of technology sounds like something out of Minority Report or Avatar.

Microsoft has again taken Science Fiction and made it into reality. Named FlexSense, it is a flexible smart surface that connects to mobile devices and is, essentially, a transparent digital piece of paper.

According to Techcrunch, this technology is based on printed piezoelectric sensors that can detect deformation of the plastic sheet and translate it to software without the need for cameras or any kind of external tracking.

Which, as far as I can translate, means it is a digital piece of paper.

The Microsoft team hopes that FlexSense will connect with existing technology and Apps to perform 2.5D interactive tasks.

Time Traveller 

Want to see what a place looked like a hundred years ago? A company called Timetraveler Augmented recently announced the Timetraveler application.

It uses Augmented Reality on smartphones and tablets to view historical content about locations near where they used to stand.  Content includes historical film footage, reconstructions of demolished sites, and stories about the impact on the location.

Right now it is only working around the Berlin wall, but they hope to expand it to other locations shortly.

LAYAR even added the ability to show a superimposed Berlin Wall as far back as 2010!

It looks like it might only be available in the German iTunes store right now, however Google Play seems to have the link available regardless of location. There are free and paid versions of the app.


We’re all sick of advertisements, but NoAd is trying to bring a little culture back to our rotting brains.

Based in New York right now, specifically the subway lines, it is digitally replacing all of the ads with artwork.

The free app  is simple to use. Just launch it and, using the device’s camera, position it over an ad. Onscreen, you can see the physical billboard transform into a digital static or animated artwork – turning your wait for a subway train to arrive into a cultural experience. No Ad has collaborated with 50 artists, but it is planning to expand that on a month to month basis.

The app won’t work if an ad has been altered or there’s graffiti on it – which, as the app’s creators see it, has become a form of artwork on their own. And as of now, the app will only work on the “100 most popular horizontal subway platform advertisements…often for movies, TV shows, and popular products.” The app will also not work if there’s a single, dominant advertiser, or if the ads have not yet been catalogued in its system.

So, looking at all this Augmented Reality technology coming our way, I only have one thing to say.

Make it so  Make it so



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