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Augmented Reality's Disruptive Potential 126

Posted by Soulskill
from the staking-claims-on-meatspace-overlays dept.
pbahra writes "A company called Layar, based in Amsterdam, is working on products that take augmented reality in a slightly different direction. They provide a platform that allows anyone to build an AR app. Consider these ideas: you can use your mobile phone's camera to view the world; your phone knows where you are and what you are looking at. The implications are profound. One of the most interesting apps that someone produced was a virtual tee-shirt shop. It was placed in the 20 most expensive shopping streets in the world, selling t-shirts. Stop and think about that for a minute. He built a virtual shop where a real one already existed. His shop was accessible via a mobile phone, while the real one was accessible through, well, being real. Real space and its virtual overlay are being used by different people. There will be lawyers."
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Augmented Reality's Disruptive Potential

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  • Ok, let's think about this for a second. The guy chose the 20 most expensive shopping areas in the world to overlay his virtual t-shirt shop. Something tells me his shop is going to be selling a much different type of product, aimed at a much different clientele. If you are walking down Savile Row doing some shopping, you are probably not going to be looking for t-shirts, and you probably already have an idea of which shop you are going to go to, and where it is. This won't be a problem until it prevent
    • by i_ate_god (899684)

      But what about regular virtual stores in shopping malls? You have Hardware Store Inc, but a virtual Hardware.Com exists inside the mall as well.

      Though, I fail to see anyone actually going to a mall, whipping out their phone, and look for stores. That seems much more tedious than say, going to the paper map.

      • by hedwards (940851)

        I doubt they'd do that. But one might scan the barcode and see if one can get the item cheaper elsewhere. In practice, unless it's substantially cheaper it's probably best to just buy it from the store you're in, rather than driving elsewhere or ordering it online.

        Also. WTF is up with the page and all those strange points.

        • its a feature test / school project thing think of it as a sideways method of commenting (btw can we get an MASTER OFF for this since it does get a bit old and gives some browser/platform combos fits)

    • Who cares about store fronts?

      Instead, project your WoW avatar onto yourself. Increase your dating potential.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UmVSQ2DrBUo [youtube.com]

  • by ratnerstar (609443) on Tuesday September 20, 2011 @08:17PM (#37462656) Homepage

    ... Because I know when I walk down the Champs-Elysees in Paris, what I really want to be doing is looking at the world through the screen of my smartphone! Why hasn't anyone thought of this before?

    Even better: sell t-shirts that appear blank but display hipster slogans when viewed through an AR app.

    • ... Because I know when I walk down the Champs-Elysees in Paris, what I really want to be doing is looking at the world through the screen of my smartphone! Why hasn't anyone thought of this before?

      I assume you're being sarcastic, but as an American who has spent a significant time living in touristy European cities (while doing research), I've had the opportunity to observe lots of people wandering around bumping into things because they're too busy looking through their videocamera or taking photos to notice anything actually going on... Even in the most beautiful or culturally significant places in the world.

      The kind of person likely to buy a tee shirt in such a location is probably exactly the

      • by Bangz (1294126)
        Yes, and it's surely not long* before augmented reality is a little more transparent than staring at your phone. * Not long as in, erm, a decade or two :) depends how transparent you want this stuff.
        • You can buy [lumus-optical.com] "HUD glasses" today, and Japanese are experimenting with an ultra-small projector that you can stick on any random pair of eyeglasses.

    • by theshowmecanuck (703852) on Tuesday September 20, 2011 @09:21PM (#37463204) Journal
      There is an excellent SciFi book called The Prefect, by Alastair Reynolds where something like this plays a key role, but in an even grander scale. People chose what they want to look like in augmented reality, and most everyone have implants that pick this up and automatically route the image into their brain without having to look elsewhere like a smart phone screen (at least that is how I read it). People could walk around looking like they had horns, or were fauns or satyrs, etc. The lead character(s) who were a form of police had to wear special glasses since they could not afford to have artificial implants in their brain that could be hacked. But the augmented reality also hooked everyone in the society together (in ten thousand habitats orbiting a planet around a distant star from earth). It was an interesting take on how technology might impact reality in the future. Anyways, FWIW Reynolds writes some interesting stuff.
      • by oakgrove (845019)
        The Golden Age trilogy by John C. Wright is another very detailed exploration of the implications of this kind of technology taken to its logical conclusion. In that novel, everything you sense is augmented in one way or another. Real-life ads are blocked and made to appear like natural parts of the scenery. Your house can be any kind of dwelling you desire, the people around you can look like anything at all. AR has many interesting possibilities but I don't think it will truly be much more than novelt
      • As a furry, I approve of this idea.

        I imagine there would be a 'naked patch' in circulation that just deletes all clothing from view too.
      • Rainbow's end [wikipedia.org] was a recent Hugo best novel that used augmented reality as a very big plot point. Basically content lenses with micro body movements for input was the new norm. I particularly liked that one of the most popular reality overlays was a discworld based mythology. Good book, worthy of the Hugo. I could see contacts being able to do this, leave the brain surgery out of this!.
    • by ooloogi (313154)

      What if you can point your smatphone at the t-shirt you like, and it identifies an online merchant selling it direct out of China for 1/10th the price, shipped to your home? No worries haggling with French salespeople, no having to carry it around for the rest of the day, and no bloated luggage. Maybe with a licensing deal, the brick and mortar store could even get a cut out of it, and not have to worry so much about inventory.

    • what I really want to be doing is looking at the world through the screen of my smartphone!

      You obviously haven't been out of your mother's basement in some time because if you were to go to any major city, let's say New York for shits and giggles, all you see are people with their heads down, looking at the screens of their smartphones.

      I recently took some foreign relatives of my aunt on a tour of New York and one of them commented on all the people who were glued to their smartphones.

      So yes,
  • This will be huge. People all over the world are going to walk around and perpetually stare into their phones to view a projection of reality instead of reality itself. Plato would be proud.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Have you seen the real world lately? People ARE walking around perpetually staring into their phones.

  • read the book (Score:4, Informative)

    by hguorbray (967940) on Tuesday September 20, 2011 @08:27PM (#37462764)
    see Halting State by Charles Stross and Spook Country by William Gibson for examples of how this overlay technology might work/look/feel like

    both books are pretty good reads and the VR overlay is central to the Stross book and a fairly big plot point in the Gibson book. Also recommend Stross's 'The Laundry Files' series -where IT and Necromancy collide....

    -I'm just sayin
    • by bughunter (10093)

      An even better example, more pertinent to TFA, would be Rainbows End [wikipedia.org] by Vernor Vinge.

      Some selective quotes from the linked Wiki page:

      In the novel, augmented reality is dominant, with humans interacting with virtual overlays of reality almost all of the time. This is accomplished by wearing smart clothing and contact lenses that can overlay and replace what the eye would normally see with computer graphics, using advanced virtual retinal display (VRD) technology.

      There are many realities to choose from in the

    • by trk6640 (2439130)
      Check out Daemon by Daniel Suarez for a fantastic fictional story using current feasible technology, the focus being on an augmented reality network. http://thedaemon.com/ [thedaemon.com]
    • Also see Counting Heads by Marusek. Not the main point of the story, but everyone has a visor with different filters that allow them to view different info. Even more interesting is that certain inside environments need no visor ... images simply appear in the space, allowing for people to be there "holographically" in the room. The line's between actually being somewhere and being there virtually become blurred, with the latter becoming way more popular.
    • by jnpcl (1929302)

      There's also an anime called Denno Coil that takes place in a world with AR glasses.

      However, they're mostly used by kids and techie geeks. It's not seen as a "big thing" to the adult populace.

  • Tried it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Tuesday September 20, 2011 @08:29PM (#37462776)

    The implications are profound.

    No, not really. Unless, maybe, you're Geordi LaForge.

    Stop and think about that for a minute. He built a virtual shop where a real one already existed.

    Big deal. I've already been able to walk into Sears and shop at JCPenney.com on my phone, if I chose, for the past several years. What this guy has done is basically artificially limit his online store's reach.

    • by chrismcb (983081)

      Big deal. I've already been able to walk into Sears and shop at JCPenney.com on my phone, if I chose, for the past several years..

      Now imagine if you could only visit JCPenny.com ONLY if you WALK into Sears... Ok, I'm AT the expensive Tshirt, where I can buy a tshirt and walk out of the door with it. WHY would I want to then go to a "virtual" tshirt job, buy a shirt, and then wait for days for it to show up?

      Yes Augmented Reality is profound. There are some pretty cool things you can do with it. Building a "virtual shop where a real one already exists." Is probably the least cool.

      Sure there will be lawyers. When people come out with th

      • So I walked into an office depot the other day. I wanted to buy a USB extension cable. I looked on the shelf and the price was high for a short cable. I grabbed something else I needed and ordered the cable from newegg on my phone while I waited in the check out line.

        Tools like Amazon's UPC scanner are greatly helpful. Google goggles as well. As OP said though, unless you're LaForge, the ARoverlay is more cumbersome than it's worth.
    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      The implications are profound.

      No, not really. Unless, maybe, you're Geordi LaForge.

      Yes! AR makes a cool gimmick and you could build cool games around it but on the other hand, it's fairly useless if you don't have a display device you can wear all the time. Some glasses, some contacts, something fancy and futuristic even by today's standards. Sure, video glasses exist, but all of them are ugly and none of the high-res ones are even vaguely affordable. Virtually none of them have mounted cameras so you need to add a rangefinder to calculate parallax.

      Where is my cheap eyetap? You could buil

  • They want their app back.
  • And all they could think of was an AR display of tee-shirt shops?

    Oh come on now....

    • by rve (4436)

      The real Amsterdam doesn't live up to the reputation you're referring to. It's a small, sleepy town, about the size of Columbus, OH, and still not quite ready to move into the 21st century.

      Almost nothing is open before 8.30 am, and most stores close after 6 pm and in the weekends. It's only been about a year since stores have been legally allowed to open on Sundays. The local culture is somewhat cold and unrefined by our standards. Having fun is generally seen as a queer and unnecessary thing foreigners lik

  • Bad Example (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    The problem with this story is the fact that the example given is so bad that it misrepresents the potential disruption.

    Better example: Disruptive app that allows me to be standing in a store and view items on the shelf through my phone with competing prices from nearby stores or online displayed in the air next to them.

    Yes, you can do that currently by typing and searching yourself, but this would allow it to be MUCH easier. Now that we have a better possibility, discuss.....

    • Please Mod Parent up!
    • by wvmarle (1070040)

      You can do this already with Android phones, using the bar code scanner. Maybe not getting as much press, it's a more down-to-earth method, yet it works already.

      I've tried this myself once with some DVDs that I got second hand. Scanned the bar code with product number, and within seconds had a list of some online shops selling that product, with prices. You can do the same when you're in a shop of course (all you need is a mobile data connection).

      Layar is interesting but has many more uses of course. For

    • by darrylo (97569)

      It's already been done. As others have said, apps exist for iOS and android that'll scan a barcode and display nearby and online prices. There's also at least one app that'll do this based upon a phone camera shot (and not just a barcode), but it's a bit hit-and-miss.

    • by ceoyoyo (59147)

      There are already apps that let you scan barcodes and look up prices. It's not disruptive. Nobody cares. Except maybe the store owner, but if he cares it's because he's trying to get away with charging you more.

    • Or a non-commercial example:

      Going to a controversial historical site (Jerusalem or maybe some sites in India) and having you phone overlay totally different historical facts on the ruins in front of you than the tour guide, who is rehashing the local, nationalized interpretation.

    • by ludwigf (1208730)

      Better example: Disruptive app that allows me to be standing in a store and view items on the shelf through my phone with competing prices from nearby stores or online displayed in the air next to them.

      Think about it. In theoretical economy transparency is a condition for the market to function. So this is how it is supposed be, right?

    • Here is another take: you put up (virtual) anti-homophobia posters on the walls of the Vatican, or, you setup a (virtual) gallery of banned artworks before prominent government buildings in China.

  • I wait until we can project information directly onto the retina, or even push it directly to the optic nerve or the brain itself.

    You could get real-time subtitles for the person you're talking to. Their name would float above their head so there's no embarrassed fumbling as you try and remember who they are.

    You could even have a small note beside them; "Last met at Jake's party 10/10/2009".

    You could turn ANY FLAT SURFACE into a computer monitor by holding out your fingers to make a box where it should go.

    • If you can do all that, why would you ever need to type?

      And I'd be really curious what would happen to our brain if we'd get direct 360 vision implanted into our optical nerve. Fun times should abound.

      • by Ambvai (1106941)

        Really, really nauseated.

        It'd take a bit to get used to it; it's quite different from the experiment about flipping vision around with mirrors since that dealt with the same amount of data in a fashion that was mostly similar. A quick look around online suggests that the human field of vision is approximately 150 degrees laterally and 120 degrees vertically. Full "spherical" vision would result in something like... 7 times more stimulation or so. Without mental restructuring, you'd probably develop some psy

    • by jezwel (2451108)
      you might want to apply for some patents of these!

      They are like those patents that were updated for "using a computer". Yours could be "in augmented/virtual reality".

    • What's a party?

  • The reason physical space has any value at all is that there is only ONE of that given space. If / When AR becomes a thing that actually matters, there is zero chance that only one AR 'space' within a physical space exists, making it meaningless if someone took your physical space and used it for whatever they wanted to in AR. No single entity will hold a monopoly over AR 'space'. There would be all sorts of varieties, such as MS, Apple, Starbucks, TPB, you name it. As soon as that 'space' is available to a
    • Just like there's no monopoly in search engines, digital music stores, desktop operating systems and all those? I'm sure Google will push their street view pretty hard and having an AR shop on "maps" will get you well over 50% of cell phone users. If you don't believe me, just substitute Google for the company you think will dominate this market.
  • Obligatory... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Dr Herbert West (1357769) on Tuesday September 20, 2011 @08:51PM (#37462950)
    I, for one, welcome our Laughing-Man overlords.
  • by labnet (457441) on Tuesday September 20, 2011 @08:58PM (#37463016)

    A great app for augmented reailty would be underground service location.

    Millions of people are digging up streets every day. If you could map all the underground services like sewer, water, electrical, data, storm water, you could use your iphone type device to 'look into' the ground before you begin excavation.
    Obviously limited by the accuracy of the existing mapping data.

    • by jezwel (2451108)
      sotty labnet, this is already an iPhone app (though I don't think it's been released outside the enterprrise) that one of my local electrical companies was writing/using. Point your phone at the ground and see the services in their currently known locations.

      They were using laser scanning for above ground items at 5cm resolution for the mapping, not sure how they intended to check the underground services though...

    • Already done and buried here in NY. It was a nice concept, but the base maps are wrong, the GPS isn't accurate enough, the compasses are totally crap (go play with a star map AR viewer some time), the facility maps are wrong anyway, and the facility depths are always changing with erosion and landscaping.

      An excavator is typically required to hand-dig / vacuum excavate within 24 inches of a marking, and will use a backhoe right up to that point. Considering the stacked errors and different mapping accurac

      • you are lucky if the data available is within a METER and you need to be within a half foot.

        guess wrong and BOOM is in your future

        CALL BEFORE YOU DIG

        If those guys make an error they can fix it/ have the fixit guys on "Red Phone" speed dial

      • by labnet (457441)

        Thanks for the detailed reply. I agree with most of your points. but..

        In Australia, the surveying is usually pretty good, at least in the cities. This is mainly because historically the government was responsible for most underground services, not lazy private contractors like in the states. (That has changed now of course)
        Like all things, the tech will improve, maps will get better, and maybe in 20 years it becomes a usefull tool.

  • Virtual billboards. A rather lame application of augmented reality, neither original or impressive.

    There are far more interesting things one might do. Show the area as it existed at some time in the past. Show the tracks of all taxis and buses that have passed through. Show who owns each building, and its sales history. Color restaurants based on their inspection reports or reviews. Show locations of crimes in the area.

    Or even show social stuff. Figure out who the cool people are from their Facebook lin

    • by darrylo (97569)

      Yes, exactly. This kind of "augmented reality" will turn into nothing more than "augmented advertising". Seriously, do people not understand that the only purpose for this is "advertising"? Like I really want more spam in my life ....

      And, yes, if I'm looking for a deal on a particular item, there are much easier, quicker, and less-in-your-face methods for finding deals.

      • by Tomato42 (2416694)
        As long as they are Open or Free systems you'll be able to create ARAdBlock... Just boycott any non Open and tell your friends and family to do the same.
    • No, VBBs will never eclipse my concept of real life "Pop-up Billboards" on interstates and highways. Well, once we figure out the whole "windshield replacement" thing.

      > Show the area as it existed at some time in the past

      This: http://www.mymodernmet.com/profiles/blogs/the-ghosts-of-world-war-iis [mymodernmet.com]

      Utterly fantastic, and terrifying in some cases.

  • by gr8_phk (621180)
    They're right about one thing... You can't make an app that works on MY property. These are MY GPS coordinates, you can't trigger shit on them.... Oh man, somebody patent suing people over that so it can't happen.
  • "There will be lawyers"

    There always are...
    Like bacteria, you can assume they will always be probing every orifice looking for a way to disrupt you.

    I'd like one of those glow-lights that reveal the presence of bacteria and make people exclaim in disgust, "Ewww! They're all over everything! They're all over ME!"... except this glow-light reveals the presence of lawyers and the friction and cost they introduce into everything we do, "Ewww! There is litigation all over everything! It's chilling effect is all ov

  • see http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&v=btaG034fJgg [youtube.com]

    oh and hoverboards would be cool too.

  • by quax (19371) on Wednesday September 21, 2011 @02:15AM (#37464846)

    Truer words were never posted.

    No high priced outfit will allow such cyber squatting of their realty.

    They will unleash hordes of lawyers to peel back the augmented reality layers.

  • Yes, being able to display a google earth layer over the camera on my phone would be cool. In theory. The problem with AR is that it combines cheap in-phone GPS results with low quality solid state compass data. I’ve got an app called “go sky watch”. It’s really cool in that it can show me where constellation, individual stars, elliptic line and the current locations of the sun and moon are. Too bad that more likely than not, it thinks my phone is pointed to a different part of

  • Today AR is mostly just used for marketing but it might become more useful when Kinect-like devices can be miniaturized enough to fit into a phone thus allowing it to truly see and understand its surroundings.
  • Heh; that's like saying "there will be rain."
    Face it; anywhere there's the least bit of money, there will be lawyers sniffing about.
  • Why bother making a "virtual" store that is only accessible at one physical location?? The whole point of the internet is that you can access it anywhere. Surely it makes more business sense to make barcode scanning app so that someone can walk into any store, scan the item that they are interested in and either be given a list of online stores to buy it from at a cheaper price or a list of recommended alternatives based upon their tastes?
  • I keep downloading and trying Layar, then promptly uninstalling it. It's kinda cluttered, unattractive, and generally useless unless you are walking around Manhattan.

    And the example they gave in the summary: "One of the most interesting apps that someone produced was a virtual tee-shirt shop"

    Ok, let me get this straight. Rather than going to stupidteeshirtidea.com and looking around, you download Layar, then you download the stupidteeshirtidea app listed in Layar, then you walk around until you find the s

    • by miahmiah (1325117)

      Ok, let me get this straight. Rather than going to stupidteeshirtidea.com and looking around, you download Layar, then you download the stupidteeshirtidea app listed in Layar, then you walk around until you find the stupidteeshirtidea virtual store and click it to get redirected to stupidteeshirtidea.com.

      THAT'S F'ING STUPID.

      Hahahaha perfectly worded!

  • TFS said:

    A company called Layar, based in Amsterdam, is working on products that take augmented reality in a slightly different direction. They provide a platform that allows anyone to build an AR app

    TFS meant to say:

    Check out my new product. It's great. I need publicity. Seriously, come now and get it. kthxbai

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