Augmented Reality, or AR, is when the interns ask “Hey, is that a unicorn in the RainyDayGarden?” or exclaim “Cool! A whale is breaching in the gym!”
AR was supposed to be the killer app for the Google Glass, and it still may be if companies like Magic Leap and DAQRI have anything to say about it. The idea of AR is elegantly simple: use a video camera to “see” what the user sees, superimpose something into the live video stream, and BAM! Reality augmented.
While device-free VR/AR is still a long way off, those willing to put up with a few limitations—donning a headset, limited resolution, update lag—can get some compelling glimpses of what an “augmented” future is like today.
We have been playing around with DAQRI’s Anatomy 4D app and it is mind-blowing. The Anatomy 4D app leverages the tech in a typical smartphone (camera, graphic processor, high resolution screen) to show the user something “extra” when the right cues are detected in the user’s environment. The cues can be anything the app recognizes in the camera’s data stream. In this case, the cues are specific images printed on a regular piece of paper.
When the DAQRI Anatomy 4D app (with the camera in “live-view” mode) detects and recognizes the cues on the paper template, it uses those cues to orient itself in 3D space. Using that spacial information, it can “augment” the view with artificial images of a beating heart, in this case, perpendicular to the orientation of the sheet of paper. This is all done with a standard iPhone, one of the AR apps from DAQRI, and an Internet connection.
The animated heart appears to float on top of the paper template and will adjust its size and orientation to the paper automatically. As the phone can be moved around the paper template the user will see the beating heart from different angles. What is even more amazing is that one can hide various parts of the heart to expose the inner workings or to see just the blood vessels around the heart! If definitely feels like one can reach out and touch it in the air!
Since what the app shows is dependent on external cues, changing the sheet of paper is all that is needed to get a completely different virtual object to appear.
At present, the field of view is limited to the size of the screen on the phone. In the future, Google Glass or Microsoft HoloLens should be able to enable the wearer to see AR things “out there,” whether it be a beating heart or a unicorn, without any boundaries. And that would be pretty awesome!!!