Augmented Reality Bites

Well, it doesn’t quite “bite,” I just wanted a catchy title. So, after watching the TED video on Pranav Mistry’s Sixth Sense, it is extraordinary where the latest forms emerging technology are headed (see below).

People may be using brain machine (or computer) interfaces (BMI) devices and the ability (in the not so distant future) to interact with environments without the need of a traditional devices. This is exciting, yet intimidating. I could sit here and tell you that we are progressing too fast and we are turning into robots, but who really cares? There is nothing I could say on this blog or scream from a mountain top that is going to stop or deter the progression of technology. To be perfectly honest, I am glad; I am ready to jump in. So while Sixth Sense technology is amazing and Mistry is no doubt a creative genius, one thing the interactive age has made a constant for today’s consumer is that we want it now. I tried Second Life in a previous post, but I want something more. Enter Augmented Reality. Why Augmented Reality? It’s the closest thing I could find to Sixth Sense…

I heard about Augmented Reality (or AR) in a blog from the PR/Marketing firm, Mason, Inc. and given what I have read about Sixth Sense and BMI, I was intrigued to say the least. So what is it? Wikipedia defines Augmented Reality as a “term for a live direct or indirect view of a physical real-world environment whose elements are augmented by virtual computer-generated imagery. It is related to a more general concept called mediated reality in which a view of reality is modified (possibly even diminished rather than augmented) by a computer.” An example that resonates best with a lot of people is the yellow first down line you would see in a televised football broadcast…or how Robert Downey Jr’s character interacts with his Iron Man suit. Even the latest project from Microsoft’s Xbox is utilizing this type of interactive technology. So where do we come in?

Armed with my trusty webcam and microphone I sought out to jump into AR or what’s also called “interactive print.” After quickly realizing that I did not have the Esquire magazine needed to use’s version, I checked out GE’s version…to which I did not have a printer necessary to print out the paper at the time. Patience lessening…

So I was off to my third and final choice,, where thousands, probably millions of teenage girls and now yours truly sought to try Mayer’s version of AR (not a big fan of his, but he did grow up in the same “hood” as me). Fortunately, when he’s not making racy remarks to Playboy magazine, John Mayer truly is at the cusp of interactive technology (if anything he is probably a serial tweeter/blogger). For his version of AR, I was able to download the pdf file on my phone and jump right in. This was the result…

As I was guiding my phone in place with the webcam in some sort of “virtual living room” in 360 degree rotations with Mayer’s latest single blaring in the background, I felt like I was at the forefront of some cool possibilities in technology…and somewhat foolish. My dad walked in on this debacle and concurred to say the least. He knows what a tech junkie I am, so like any confused, supportive parent would say, “That was…um…interesting, Jon.” I, uh, concur.

I wanted to give AR one more shot, printed out the paper GE required and give their site a try. This is what their website’s video said my experience would look like…

This is what my experience wound up looking like…

As you see my curly head peeking out, one thing was for sure, I didn’t really know what I was doing. Navigating the paper as the hologram was a lot easier than using my cell phone from John Mayer’s site. The basic premise is a solar powered demonstration, but I could not really see it because the paper needed to do this ultimately obstructs your view (although they have an extremely interactive site). It was worth a try.

In the end, Augmented Reality could be like Nintendo’s Virtual Boy in terms of interactive technology (innovative idea, but is not really going to alter my life long-term). Like a lot of technology, some might take off (like text messaging), while others that had potential, may just not (like the original WebTV). What is the fate of Augmented Reality? I think it has a place in terms of print marketing staying relevant for younger audiences, but it is still too early to predict its success. This is fine; it’s just an appetizer of what’s to come in this ever-changing world of emerging technology (which can be fun if you don’t mind looking foolish from time to time).


  • Pranav Mistry (2009), The Thrilling Potential of SixthSense Technology, TED

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  1. [...] one of my last posts, I mentioned my personal lack of fear in emerging technologies. Are the computers we use in our [...]

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