More than Reality; Augmented Reality

Remember when swarms of people were rushing through parks, causing traffic accidents, invading museums in a quest to capture invisible creatures? That was Pokemon Go,  an augmented-reality game that used your mobile phone to superimpose a layer of visible monsters on your smart phone. If you were under 30 it was a fun way to get out side with a bunch of people, if you were over 30 it was an incredible waste of time, and if you were over 60 (hi Mum!) you couldn’t understand it at all. Pokemon Go turned 1 year old last month.

So far Augmented Reality, and it’s big sister Virtual Reality, seem to be technologies looking for a purpose. But what if you could find a good use for them?

Social Issues

The BBC radio programme Click report on the use of Virtual and Augmented reality in the world of art and social conscious raising, it’s worth listening to, although not all that easy to imagine the art under discussion – it’s challenging our knowledge of history, relationships and empathy. They talk about some of the technical challenges of making the experiences work for international audiences.

Clouds over Sidra, is a Virtual reality film that aims to transport you to the experience of a refugee camp, and it was created by the UN to highlight the plight of refugees, now more numerous than ever.

There’s a an old adage that history is written by the victors, as a result the statues of the good and the great tend to be of white men. There are no statues of real women in New York’s central park – but 26 of men, and it’s the same pattern across the world. It will take generations to change this. In the meantime Y&R is bringing women into the landscape in an augmented reality app called “The Whole Story“. It’s a great way to be more aware of who is missing from the landscape, this is focused on the missing women of history, but the same technology could be used for unrecognised men. It could also be used to update the history of those great men who, in current times, aren’t viewed in quite the same light.

Medical Uses of Augmented Reality

(1) Training doctors on anatomy,  Microsoft has worked with their HoloLens product and medical experts to build a 3D interactive anatomically correct model to train students.

(2) Headsets using virtual reality could help visually-impaired people have independence, helping them navigate their way around cities even in low lighting.

(3) Using wearables to train surgeons in remote locations

(4) Performing surgery – remotely – already exists, but it’s only a matter of time before the surgeon’s experience becomes more virtual.

Advertising/Entertainment

There will be lots more  experimentation with advertising and entertainment uses of virtual or augmented reality, my favourite so far is this, from Pepsi. How freaked out would you have been if this had happened at your bus stop.

The equipment for virtual reality is expensive and clunky which keeps it in the realms of specialists for now, but augmented reality via your phone represents a real opportunity beyond catching Charmeleons and Venusaurs.

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