AUGMENTED REALITY SOFTWARE
Augmented reality software adds a layer of computer-generated data, which cannot be seen or heard with human senses, into reality through smart glasses and other Internet-connected devices.
What We Learned from the Dialogue
Augmented reality software adds a layer of computer-generated data, which cannot be seen or heard with human senses, into reality through smart glasses and other Internet-connected devices. One example of augmented reality is a smartphone application that adds contextual information like street names, historical events, restaurant menus or store hours, to the camera application in the form of labels or boxes as the user scans their surroundings. Museum headsets that play recorded information about art when the user is in close proximity to the exhibits and Google Glass, which combines both visual and auditory augmentation, are other examples of augmented reality software. A final example is seen when watching a sporting event on television; players cannot see the graphic enhancements, such as statistics and lines, which appear on the screen. It is important to note that augmented reality differs from virtual reality (e.g., video games), in that rather than adding to the existing world, the latter replaces the real world with a simulated one.
Surgeons, scientists, retail outlets and entertainers have led experimentation with augmented reality software. It is currently used to make informed decisions about archeology, shopping, interior design, surgeries and travel. Entrepreneurs have also developed several interesting applications to visualize climate changes, real-time translation and step-by-step instructions.
Participants in the Seoul, South Korea, workshop valued augmented reality software for crowdsourcing and visualizing community resources. The experts noted how mobile devices equipped with augmented reality software could be held in the user’s line of sight (similar to taking a picture) and display computer-generated billboards and bubbles on the screen that correspond with people’s homes and businesses, indicating those who are offering food, water, first aid and other services. This, they said, can be particularly helpful if the user is unfamiliar with the area, cannot see around the corner or is surrounded by high-rise buildings. The software would need to be updated regularly and provide near real-time information (generated by users) about fixed and mobile services as they become available and expire.
During the dialogue, participants also envisioned augmented reality software as a helpful way to “see” where potential disasters could occur based on past events and current modeling, such as visualizing potential flood damage at specific water levels. This emerging technology could also help community members locate available resources post disaster and pinpoint people buried by a landslide or earthquake, saving lives and increasing the speed of recovery. Community members and experts were equally interested in augmented reality-based disaster simulation to aid their preparedness education.
The primary barrier to accepting augmented reality software during the dialogue discussions, however, was simply unfamiliarity. Most participants had not seen augmented reality software in use and struggled to find the added value to distinguish it from accessing information from today’s Internet browsers and applications. As consumers continue to move toward a hands-free lifestyle and as more data becomes publically available, experts anticipate augmented reality software and the visualization of information will become increasingly relevant. Cost was not a significant concern of the dialogue participants given that any consumer expense would be limited to the purchase of a nominally-priced application.
Augmented reality software was perceived by some dialogue participants as a potential invasion of privacy, although others noted that the data used would be limited to what was publicly available. Participants wondered if they would have to disclose information they collected using augmented reality software to their insurance companies or the government, especially if they identified vulnerabilities in their homes.
The key to increasing interest in augmented reality software, according to the dialogue, is to simply make more applications that people can experiment with in their daily lives. This would make them more comfortable with the interface and more likely to consider a dual use in emergencies. Participants also requested that the information be available without Internet access.