July 20, 2016
While playing Pokemon Go out in the neighbourhood recently — for research purposes only, of course — I confirmed that this is more that just a game. It’s the gateway drug to augmented reality.
I’ve had experience with AR before, but never in a way that seemed engaging or worth getting into. The defunct Daily News may have been the first to try popularizing this technology in Kamloops when it introduced Layar — an app that allowed you to watch videos or view photo galleries while pointing your phone camera at designated points in the paper.
It didn’t exactly capture the public’s imagination, and is now but a footnote in the history of our dearly departed daily. If Pokemon Go had been around at the time, things might have been different. The game has made AR fashionable to the point where it is becoming second nature for young people.
The thing is, though, augmented reality has been around for the last few years, and you may have been using it without knowing.
A good example of AR hidden in plain sight would be the geofilters that add fun overlays to your Snapchat pictures. The design and content varies with where you are in the world. Other apps have similar features.
Then there is Google Translate. Fire up the app and point your camera at a sign that uses an unfamiliar language, and it will be transformed into one you understand.
You might also have used AR with the Yelp app. If you’re in a strange city, you can point your camera at your surroundings and information will display about nearby restaurants and bars.
There are plenty of AR-based apps that give you information about your environment. If you’re travelling, you can learn about museums, galleries and other points of interest. It’s like having personal guide.
Golfers can use AR to learn about distances and terrain on the course. But it makes me wonder — would other players object to this as an unfair advantage?
Turning to the night sky, you can view an overlay of constellations and their names, or see which satellites are passing by.
Try-before-you-buy apps look particularly useful. You can, for example, place a virtual couch in your living room to see how it would look. IKEA has been doing this for years. Or you could use the Ink Hunter app to project a virtual tattoo on your body before committing to the real thing.
I’m surprised these last uses haven’t caught on more. But with Pokemon Go blazing new trails, it’s just a matter of time before virtual shopping becomes the norm.