Los Angeles, Calif. – Augmented reality only seems like an overnight sensation.
But much like that Broadway star turn that transforms careers, AR has been quietly evolving before our eyes – and in 2010, the technology reached maturity. Adhering faithfully to Moore’s Law, computing power and computer graphics capability have grown exponentially, fueling the commercial AR revolution.
According to Bruno Uzzan, co-founder and CEO of Total Immersion, that revolution encompasses “12 years of innovation in video capture and video resolution -- from low-res webcams to embedded high frame-rate cams in mobile devices, from computer-animated movies to 3D cinema today. These breakthroughs have supported our vision – to transform passive consumers into active participants – for more than a decade.”
For Total Immersion, that translates to more than 800 projects delivered since 2008. The company operates six offices worldwide and works with more than 90 Partners in 40 countries. “We see readiness and practicality in this next generation of AR applications,” Uzzan said. “We see an ‘AR-ready’ world.”
Underscoring the distance AR traveled in 2010, Stephen Mietelski of Mullen Advertising said this about Mullen’s partnership with Total Immersion, on behalf of Olympus and its PEN E-PL1 micro camera: “Augmented reality has been used by companies before, but more as a gimmick than as an actual, working, in-depth product demo. This is as close to having the camera in your hands as you can get without actually having it in your hands.” The Olympus AR experience attracted some 100,000 unique visitors its first month, and repeat visitors comprise 15 percent of current traffic. The application recently won the prestigious Summit Award.
AR Everywhere in 2011
What’s to come in the year ahead? According to Uzzan, “ubiquity.” D’Fusion, the company’s patented software solution, will be available on all devices (PCs, tablets, smartphones, set-top boxes) and operating systems: Windows, Mac OS, Linux, iPhone OS, Android, Bada and Maemo, among others. And helping standardize it all will be Adobe Flash. Adobe and Total Immersion recently formed a strategic alliance designed to accelerate market penetration of AR applications.
In 2011, look for new computer vision algorithms that will dramatically improve AR’s ability to “see” natural features and respond accordingly, Uzzan said. “AR is a new human interface, and in the year ahead, applications will incorporate enhanced face tracking, hand-tracking and shape-based image recognition, drawing on large, local image recognition databases,” he suggested.
Even as applications encompass powerful new capabilities, AR application development will become more accessible, quicker and more cost-effective, Uzzan predicted. Adobe Flash development tools will help agencies and designers reduce the total cost of ownership, integrating D’Fusion Studio as a distinct development platform for desktop and mobile apps alike, and placing D’Fusion in Platform as a Service (PaaS) mode.
As mobile devices continue their march to supplant the desktop, the massive boost in bandwidth that fueled rapid smart phone adoption will continue to reshape the landscape, Uzzan said. In retail, the trend in mobile AR will see apps moving from simple wayfinding and local search, to more robust experiential shopping tools (bridging information in real time, offering dynamic visualization, and so on). Says Juniper Research: “Given its potential to geotag products or locations with brand/campaign-specific information, as we near the end of 2010 a raft of major retailers and brands are releasing apps with an AR element.”
“Nearly 30 percent of U.S. smart phone owners will use those to research or buy products this holiday season,” Total Immersion’s Uzzan noted. “Similarly, 44 percent of U.S. adults will shop online for holiday items this year, according to the National Retail Federation. And mobile commerce likewise is taking off. By 2014, 30 percent of mobile subscribers with data plans in mature markets will use AR at least once a week, per Gartner.
“What all of this means is that augmented reality is poised for explosive growth, as the technology, the tools and the applications converge in 2011 in remarkable ways,” Uzzan said.