Here is the link to a column I wrote on augmented reality for the journal for the American Chamber Of Commerce in Japan.
In the 1990s, computer-generated worlds in which people could completely immerse themselves were believed to be the next big thing in technology. But the concept of virtual reality (VR) never quite lived up to its hype. The artificial worlds never felt like reality, and VR required too many peripherals, i.e. head sets or gloves, to gain a foothold in the mainstream. Fast forward to 2010, and nobody talks about VR anymore. The “it” technology of the moment is called Augmented Reality (AR). AR doesn’t create entirely simulated environments, but merges virtual objects and real-world images seen via a mobile phone’s camera or a webcam on a PC.
How does AR work? Imagine yourself as a lost tourist in Tokyo looking for the nearest subway station. Start the AR program on your smartphone, hold it up, and slowly turn around while watching the camera image on the display. As you pan your handset around, you will see digital annotations, graphics, and other information about your immediate surroundings superimposed on the images—hopefully including a Tokyo Metro icon that indicates where the closest subway station is. AR makes it possible to see the names and distances of buildings on a city skyline or get information when pointing your phone to a landmark in the form of text, pictures, or even voice recordings and videos. The camera generates the images, the phone’s GPS module determines the user’s location, and a built-in compass detects the direction in which the phone is pointed. AR has been around for more than two decades, but has so far been limited to a few areas, for example, industrial design. However, the advent of smartphones, more computational power in PCs, and faster Internet connections have made the technology available to more and more end consumers in recent years.
– read the rest here.