Augmented reality is the principle of changing or adding to what an individual sees and experiences with something artificial. Those additions might be simple text or color-coding, but could also be a full replacement of the existing world with something brand new, and custom to you.
Today, augmented reality (AR) can primarily be seen in advertising with examples from brands such as National Geographic, Toyota and Billabong which allow you to experience it through your computer or a smartphone, or a custom screen deployed in a public space.
Smartphones aren't being left out either with functional apps such as Word Lens that a translate foreign road signs into your own language. Done in real time, this removes the future need for all those high school lessons spent learning how to say "where is the station?" in different languages.
Naturally the military is interested, and while we won't know the full extent of their research for a while, a recent RFP (Request For Proposal) from the U.S. Navy shows that integrating the technology into their soldiers' day-to-day lives is certainly on the agenda, providing true heads up display capabilities in the heat of the moment.
To us as individuals, the possibilities of how this impacts our lives are endless. We have it on our smartphones today and can already do some amazing things that are both entertaining and functional, but imagine what happens when we can integrate it in such a way that it is always with us and always on. I have been pondering this since 2008 when I worked with Lego; they had successfully solved a real world in-store problem using AR, but I wanted to see it progress further. I would pose the question about the concept of retinal implants or LED contact lenses and how this could put the individual in control of the experience.
That is quickly becoming a reality with the announcement of Project Glass from Google which will bring the technology into a set of smart "spectacles," and work with companies like Innovega which debuted a megapixel contact lens at CES this year.
Wow! AR in a contact lens? Suddenly all of the world's data is available to you 24/7 in a format that is invisible to others. I have spent a lot of my career selling, and so I immediately think of the power of negotiation I would have if I could call up anything I needed to know at any time! James Bond would be jealous!
No longer will we have to settle for the environment that someone else has chosen for us. Instead, we can simply switch it up with a mere thought or swipe of a virtual keypad and have it become more suited to our tastes. Boring commute to work? Switch out the view from the train to the French Riviera, the mountains of Colorado or underwater at the Great Barrier Reef. And why sit on a train at all -- remove the passengers and the walls and fly freely through the sky.
As the technology becomes more prevalent, major questions begin to form for society about the impact this has but for now I will be looking forward to getting my hands on the technology, if for no other reason than to play real pacman.