Can Augmented Reality & The Internet Of Things Play Nicely Together?

The terms augmented reality and internet of things are becoming increasingly common but how many people can actually define these terms or indeed understand the implications of the relationship between the two.

What is augmented reality (AR)?

AR brings things to life. It enhances a person’s current perception of reality by giving them a real-time direct (or indirect) vision of an environment where physical elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory inputs. Inputs could be sound, video, graphics or even GPS data.

Example: AR can be used in retail where shoppers are able to virtually try on makeup, using smart screens, to see what they might look like without physically having to apply all the various colours and tones of makeup. This saves a lot of time and makes the shopping experience a lot easier to consumers.

What is the internet of things?

IoT is defined by Wikipedia as “the network of physical objects or ‘things’ embedded with electronics, software, sensors and connectivity to enable it to achieve greater value and service by exchanging data with the manufacturer, operator and/or other connected devices.”

Examples: The Nest thermostat is probably the example people would be most familiar with. The thermostat is Wi-Fi-connected and allows users to adjust the temperature of their home remotely, via their mobile devices. The thermostat is ‘smart’ so will learn its users’ behavioural patterns and in doing so can create a temperature setting schedule according to what it believes its users would most like.

What are the possibilities for AR and IoT?

One of the best advantages for linking AR up with IoT is that it can result in extremely clear and quick results in terms of data interpretation or specific information and enables us to engage on a much more in-depth level with everyday items and devices. It can therefore vastly improve our day to day lives.

For instance, viewing a set of temperature readings on a thermostat would be much more interactive and engaging when viewed as different colour patches on top of an image. Likewise you could be walking down a street looking for somewhere to eat and the technologies would help you to see which restaurants and bars are full, which have space, what’s on the menu etc. The pairing of the two would also be of great use to shoppers, since it would enable you to see if the jacket, book or pair of shoes (amongst many other things) that you’re after are in stock.

For now, AR is still rather limited which means that the above possibilities (as well as many others) have not quite come to fruition just yet. There is no doubt that AR will continue to improve and this will involve a lot of work being done on improving the accuracy of location tracking. Progress would also advance more speedily if there were more intuitive AR-capable devices available.

Howard Ogden, head of augmented reality company Mobilistar, remains optimistic, yet cautious, about the potential of the two technologies pairing up, stating that linking the large amounts of data streaming from IoT with AR would “provide many opportunities and some challenges, one of which is representing it in a relevant and understandable fashion…The [web] certainly can be used to visualise this data. AR can help not just to visualise it — but see it in context.”

Ogden gives a positive example of the emergency services making great use of the pairing of these technologies, using real-place, real-time data: “Imagine, firefighters using AR visors that display building schematics, evacuation procedures, and environmental data (O2 levels / temperature) during an emergency.”

The above example would obviously be of enormous use and could lead to many more lives being saved. However, whilst this example if extremely impressive, we need not get too caught up in the importance of such immediate data, since most of us do not work in the emergency services.

There are many instances where data would be just as well-received a week or so later, for instance by a runner who is tracking their calorie intake against daily runs. In this case, it would be a lot more useful to analyse the data tracked and collected by AR and IoT technology on a weekly basis versus instant.

There are a lot of advantages to AR and IoT linking up together, and they most definitely can and will play nicely, however, it seems there is still some way to go until the pairing is smooth running. No doubt this will change in the coming months ahead …we just need to be patient.

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