This past weekend I attended ARDevCamp, an “unconference” on augmented reality technical and business issues. It was a engaging and informative day and I wanted to share some of the notes on one session that was particularly insightful.
A quick side note about an “unconference” (wiki). At regular conferences, such as Gartner Symposium, there are schedules with tacks and topics and an agenda for the day. Not so at an unconference, the whole notion of who’s running the show is flipped. At this meeting it’s the attendees who set the topics and agenda. It’s a great way to have a whole day focused on what we wanted to discuss, and a great way to keep the attendees focused and interested. I’ve been to several unconferences and unevents, they are always fun and interesting.
Back to ARDevCamp. The inaugural event was in Dec 209 at Hacker Dojo in Mountain View, and there have been around 10 since in various locations around the world. All volunteer and the conference is open to anyone and its a free, makes going an easy decision. This weekend’s event was at GAFFTA (hacker/design/art collaboration space in SF) and was attended by augmented reality industry elite, business and technical leaders, artists and designers, software developers and film makers, students, job seekers and many more. It was great to network around the hot topic of augmented reality with some of the best in the business.
Given the opportunity to suggest topics I proposed and then moderated a session around making predictions about how augmented reality will be used over the next few years. I wanted to get the attendees to open up about the types of augmented reality applications they believe will be in the hands of consumers during the years 2011-2014. This target time frame is just close enough to now and just far away enough so we could have fun thinking about our future. The session ground rules were simple; brainstorm on a list of the top 5 augmented reality apps that would be available for consumers during the given 3 years. Those app ideas had to be realistic and have a more than reasonable chance of success given the state of augmented reality technology seen today.
After a fun rapid fire brainstorming session we came up with 30 app ideas, and those were boiled down and bubbled up into a short list of the top apps that we can expect to see, realistically, in the 2011-2014 time frame. Here they are in no particular order:
Augmented TV – imagine being able to not only control your digital living room experience, but with augmented television you could actually control the story, become part of the story, using AR tools and techniques. Immersion in interactive stories is now new, but its application, on a mass scale, and through devices suck as Kinect, you can imagine a new type of entertainment experience that is a cross between special effects movies and interactive video games. A real mashup that will bring a new type of experience to your hyper connected, multi-screened, and somewhat mobile digital living room
Retail – discussion was around using AR to help retailers with the shopping experience. AR can be integrated in many ways into retail, mainly as a monitoring tool, and given that analysis plays a role AR can help businesses determine what customers are doing, who they are, what they are purchasing and in some cases how they are using the products themselves. We all agreed AR has a big future in the retail experience.
Inside Outside – simple idea, AR systems now (mainly those AR apps/browsers on smartphones) use GPS for positioning but this really only works outside, and is only accurate to within ~50 ft. Within 1-3 years those apps will now be able to work seamlessly moving between inside and outside.
Travel – all agreed that the traveling experience will be enhanced by AR applications. Museums, parks, touring, navigation, nature and entertainment generally fall into this category. AR apps of the (near) future will be able to give you directed information in and around your travel needs. Having a companion travel guide on your AR enabled smartphone or tablet will provide interesting and deep content that is currently not available in any other form.
Facial recognition – we all agreed this was a sensitive topic, but it was agreed that facial recognition capability will be included in AR apps of all types within the given 3 years timeframe. Yes, everyone was concerned about privacy, but the technology is here today, its been deployed in controlled circumstances, and it will come to an AR app soon enough.
Maintenance – using AR apps to help people get stuff done, like changing the oil, repairing the dishwasher or framing a wall. This idea that multimedia documents could be in your hand, when you need them, where you need them, will become commonplace and will even spill over into other uses such as showing you how to put together your Lego kits.
And there was one more, and possibly the most important and/or impactful prediction ….
Gesture – there was talk about how devices like Microsoft’s Kinect will forever change how we interact with our computing environment. Gesture is the new mouse, waving is the new clicking, and just imagine an setting where Kinect-like devices can help you by providing contextual apps and displays in your every day life, on your street corner, market, theater, library, work, school or even in your car. AR and gesture will drive our new interaction paradigms (at least this crowd thought so), welcome to the world of augmented me.
In all ARDevCamp was really fun and I thought was a great success. Thanks clearly go to the organizers (@chris23 @anslem @paigesaez @genebecker) and sponsors Layar, Metaio, Qualcomm, GAFFTA and Makerlab.
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