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Augmented reality and its many cousins are here to stay

8. October 2010 – 10:09 by Bengt Feil (TuTech Innovation GmbH)

Screenshots Partners with background.FundaIn January of 2010 I wrote an article about the possibilities of augmented reality in eParticipation. Three quarters of the year in augmented reality, as a method of layering information onto the real world, has developed further and looks like it is here to stay and therefore keeps being interesting for eParticipation. It however also is part of a greater challenge the eParticipation community faces.

Several things hint at the coming of age of augmented reality:

  • The platforms being able to use augmented reality apps have gotten more common with iOS and Android hardware having the necessary sensors and cameras and being widely successful in the market place. However with the availability of more devices the differences among them are also getting bigger (for example a gyroscope is only available in the iPhone 4 right now). This video gives a good overview of the available platforms).
  • Augmented reality seems to come into the mainstream slowly as the discussion around PlaneFinder shows. This app lets you point your phone at a plane in the sky and get information like position, height and speed, and has been deemed as being possibly dangerous to airplane security. Even though augmented reality is still gimmicky in many cases new uses bubble up every day and the technology might find a strong place in mobile app use over time.
  • Another hint of the growing interest in augmented reality is the time spent by developers building the apps. From September 2009 to June 2010 the number of AR apps in the Appstore rose from 83 to 480. This shows that augmented reality is still a niche but on the rise.

So what to make out of the fact that this way of displaying information on mobile devices is here to stay? For eParticipation this challenge has to be seen in the greater context of the transformation from almost all web-usage being in a standard web-browser on a computer to a multi-device (phone, tablet, TV) profile.

The eParticipation user of today might jump for one device and mode of usage (e.g. consuming information to adding content) to the other quickly and modern eParticipation platforms should be able to handle this challenge. From this angle augmented reality is just one more brick in the wall (consisting of many bricks).

I will pick up this topic in another article and try to discuss how the problem of getting eParticipation working in so many different settings could by addressed from a technical and procedural point of view.

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