Archive for the ‘Augmented Reality’ Category

Social Media Jam: Google Maps Innovation

October 23, 2012 Leave a comment

Yesterday’s excellent social media jam event featured Google’s Ed Parsons talking about the immediate and future vision for Google Maps, at the Capgemini office in Central London. Read on for some notes, comments and observations from the session.

Ed Parsons Talking Google Maps at Capgemini

As first speaker, Parsons took the audience on a journey through Google Map’s current state and plans, including:

  • Map Annotation – a feature, currently in beta, of real time annotation of Google Maps, based on the user’s circle of trust. This level of customisation means that each user will have a unique Google Map experience based on their annotations.
  • 3D Modelling – In less than five years, there are plans for some 3D photo-realistic models of places and locations, in real time. This means the images generated will be almost indistinguishable from the physical version. However, some challenges to be overcome include real time simulation and Map animation – e.g. to get realistic effects for such things as parallax, the lighting on buildings or movement of leaves on trees etc.
  • Indoor mapping – Another initiative in the works involves mapping “the great indoors” i.e. providing maps and locations within buildings (e.g. via wifi) and integrating seamlessly with the outside environment. Essentially, you could use your mobile device e.g. Smartphone not only to guide you to a shopping mall, but also to a specific location within one of its department stores.
  • Future of Maps – Finally, according to Ed, the map of the future will not be a map at all, instead, it’ll be tightly integrated into contextual services accessible via such cool devices as envisioned in this YouTube video for the Google glass project. Such scenarios involve the use of real time information (e.g. about destination / routes / detours / traffic / historical preference / calendar etc.) e.g. in Google Now, to dynamically adjust the service / experience delivered to the user. Contextual services are really all about exploiting the value of information at the specific time of use, and it relies on ambient information in that magic zone between physical & virtual worlds.

In addition, attendees were treated to a quick overview of an interesting application of Map technology and audio, which essentially allows artistes to create an audio soundscape for specific locations. This topic was covered by Southampton University’s Ben Mawson, who is working on a technology that will allow users to enter and explore sounds linked in this way to a physical location, via their Android Smartphone.

Below are some comments, questions and observations from attendees including:

  1. The decision, by Apple, to introduce their own maps offering into the iOS may mean users not getting to play as much with Google Maps
  2. Google Maps and Circles are a natural combination for Map annotation, but this will depend on user uptake, and careful management to avoid coming across as overly intrusive to the user. It was suggested that an interface with Facebook would be great for such annotations, but don’t hold your breath.
  3. Battery life – In order to make the described features truly usable, the longevity of battery life must be addressed managed intelligently (e.g. GPS usage only when moving)

In all, this was a most interesting event, and a key take away for me was that contextual information and Augmented Reality have come a long way, but their full implications are only just beginning to be understood. This means they can easily become misapplied or overly intrusive, therefore due care must be taken over interpreting user intentions, as this could bring back similar issues of: IP rights infringement, user intent and privacy concerns, which dogged the music industry and its infamous Napsterisation.


Augmented Reality: You Must Be Seeing Things!

November 6, 2010 Leave a comment

Augmented Reality (aka AR), looks increasingly set to play a major role in shaping the future of mobile computing, commerce, education and advertising. It isn’t far wrong to think of this as “electronic data mist” laid over mundane physical reality, but my main concern, as ever, is what happens when Intellectual Property Rights get thrown into the mix?

Specifically, who has the right to display what content over which physical area? Will it get to a point of digital saturation, i.e. the prospect of infinite virtual content over finite physical space? Also, how do you filter out the digital noise? I’m sure each of these questions presents immense opportunities for some digital entrepreneurs to make a killing over the next few years, i.e. if they’re not already doing so.

More to the point, I saw some fledgling offerings, precursors to a future AR industry that promises a wealth of content and applications, at last month’s BCS event on AR which featured two excellent speakers (a UCL professor, and the prominent blogger/founder of on the topic. Suffice it to say that they presented a feast of possibilities and opportunities for any far-sighted entrepreneur or venture capitalist to grab a stake in this potentially explosive space.

However, as with most things concerned with digital content versus physical reality, there is still a lack of clarity on governance, or rules-of-engagement, for when “digital meets physical” (sic). In light of the numerous battles fought by the music, film and publishing industries over digital content misuse or piracy, it is clear that the opportunities presented by emergent capabilities like AR will also bring its own unique challenges e.g.: privacy, limitations-in-technology, and the prospect of falling down an open manhole, or bumping into a lamp-post as your reality becomes increasingly over-augmented (for more info, you can read this excellent post about “the case against Augmented Reality”)

In spite of the above, the prospect of augmented reality applications becoming more common-place and making a real impact in the fields of medicine, education and commerce is indeed very exciting. I sincerely hope that AR will grow and flourish, overcoming the challenges that face it, in order to become an indispensible tool for this and future generations.