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Augmented reality poised to leave a mark on IT

Arthur Nichols, a systems analyst | March 15, 2013
Is it possible AR could become a fifth component of the nexus?

Though true artificial intelligence remains futuristic in terms of practical applications, use of computers to augment our own perception of the world is pushing more prominently into view, with commercials already suggesting ways to overlay information on what we see. With augmented reality (AR) being developed to take advantage of cloud, mobile, big data and social technology -- Gartner's "nexus of forces" -- is it possible AR could become a fifth component of the nexus?

AR is generally defined as a direct or indirect view of a real-world environment that is augmented in some way by computer generated input. This means your view of the world around you can be enhanced by external information as desired.

The concept itself is not really new. In fact, most people are familiar with some common uses. In football on TV, for example, the yellow first down line you see on the screen is an example of AR that has been in use for several years. However, this is not the kind of AR that promises to change the world as we know it.

AR relies on different aspects of developing technologies such as GPS, computer vision and object recognition. As such, as we see advancements in these technologies, AR stands to benefit along with them.

Mobile, cloud, big data and social tech

Intel researchers have been working on new processors for smartphones and tablets partially in anticipation of demand for AR capabilities and the power they will require. As technology makes its push into cloud computing, however, this may not even be necessary.

Google recently released the Google Goggles application, which allows users to search the Web based on an image captured using the camera in their smartphone. While this does not exactly constitute the sort of real-time AR that has the tech world talking, it does show AR can make strides toward its true potential through the cloud. As with many consumer technologies these days, mobility is the key to success. Devices supporting AR will have to be light on hardware to appeal to a mobile market, which means that the heavy lifting and storage will have to be accessed via network.

The Google Glass project -- a computer worn as glasses -- may be the general public's introduction to cloud-based AR. Consumer models of the glasses are expected to make their debut sometime in 2014. Users will wear a small headband with a clear display positioned over one eye. It will record things from your environment such as conversations and images and store them in Google's cloud. From this input, Google can provide relevant information from its search engine or Google+. 


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