Saturday, September 25, 2010

What is augmented reality and why is it hot

Augmented reality (AR) is a term for a live direct or indirect view of a physical real-world environment whose elements are augmented by virtual computer-generated imagery.

We hear and see more and more companies offering augmented applications for smart phones. But to be honest most of the time it is not augmented reality, it is Mediated Reality.
Mediated Reality refers to the ability to add to, subtract information from, or otherwise manipulate one's perception of reality through the use of a wearable computer or hand-held device[1] such as a smart phone (

Nevertheless if we call it augmented reality or mediated reality, it is not new but gets it's hype with the smart phones.

I used to have in 2003 the Siemens SX1, which we could compare with smart phones.

It had a touch screen, a camera, extendable memory and a web browser.
The phone was awesome and i think I had it 2 years.
It did run on Symbian OS, but the really cool part was an installed game called Mozzies. In Mozzies, the Camera is used to detect the motion. So you have to position the gun on the flying mosquitoes which are superimposed on the video feed from the camera. The objective is to shoot down the mosquitoes by moving the phone around and clicking when you are aiming correctly.
I believe this game won some prices as best mobile game back in time. But I don't know who did build it.

Even the military is using such technology sine many years to project information on windshields of fighters for the pilots. Mercedes presented on a trade-show a few years ago a concept car with a projected navigation system on the drivers windshield. Meditated reality goes even back till the 60es ( 1966: Ivan Sutherland invents the head-mounted display suggesting it was a window into a virtual world.
1975: Myron Krueger creates Videoplace that allows users to interact with virtual objects for the first time.).

Today augmented or let us say for now mediated reality goes a step further and does incorporate more information from the Internet.
Many times it not only uses the camera picture, but as well position data either over GPS or Wifi or sound speakers.

Imagine you go shopping in a big mall and instead searching for a mall map, you look on the screen of your smart phone and hold it in the direction you want to go and you would not only see the real image of the mall but as well arrows and text indicating where which store is and if if they have specials. Clicking on one of the stores will bring their e-commerce site or let you set an appointment to avoid waiting times.

Or if you are in a store and you are seeing a nice dress, you just hold your phone to the dress and you could see yourself in the screen wearing the dress without the hassle to go to the changing room. If you like the dress you order it direct on the phone. When you are done with shopping a friendly employee will hand out to you a bag with your orders before you leave the store.

Or you are in a book store (if they are still around) and look at a book. You instantly would see on the book cover information from the internet through your smart phone )The rating, a short overview and alternative sales prices etc.).

This is mediated reality combined with e-commerce and social.

I believe this is just the beginning and like me a lot of investors. In the last 12 months a handful of companies specialized in mediated realty got big funding.
All of them uses as their object of choice a smart phone.
But I think this type of technology will go away from smart phones and will find it's way into devices we don't need to hold, maybe into eye glasses. It just does make more sense if you don't need to hold something to get this information. It will as well make it's way into windshields of cars.

Mediated realty is the normal progress. That we use computer screens is only because we do things and want to see things which we can't do in our brain and therefore not able to visualize as real images.
If we would have an organic computer build in which we could connect to all other people in the world (if they want) and if we would be able to visualize all we hear and think in front of our eyes we would not need computers. We can't and this the reason why we still have computer boxes and screens. But at least technology gets faster, cheaper and smaller that we are now able to have such mediated realty in our smart phones.

The software for mediated realty is not expensive, everybody can download a SDK as an example at eye for free.

Because it is a new hype the developing costs are artificial high but will constantly get cheaper till everybody can have it on their computer (like MS World) to build their own mediated realty application.

The tricky part is to find out what would make sense as mediated realty application and how to monetize it.

At end we will have 2 or 3 global players and a few niche players, because they could differentiate themselves from other with applications which are useful.

- Posted using My iPad

Location:Spinning Wheel Ln,Spring Hill,United States


  1. Interesting thoughts... I'm just not sure I can follow your explanation on augmented- vs. mediated reality. Also in my opinion it's not a hype, but the birth of one of the most powerful personal media and marketing tools in this day and age. Yes, the media loves it but that does not make it a hype. Connect with me on Twitter if you like to further chat about this. @remcovrOOm

  2. I agree it is the future as i wrote in the blog. Augmented reality will be a part of our life. I say hype, because a lot of things are now done with this technology but many times more fun than with sense.
    It is like internet started or social did start. After a few years it is just a part of our life but different than we do it now.