Augmented reality (AR) has so conditioned the way we use information that we barely bother distinguishing it from, well, real reality. Those yellow first-down lines on TV football games have been with us forever, no?
In the past five years or so, AR has mushroomed from being a clever visual toy to a serious industry that is changing other industries – everything from software development to marketing.
The technology lets us add virtual 3D content to a real environment, layering digital information atop traditional media products. Never mind TV football, AR lets us see how couches or toasters will look in our own houses without having to take them home.
To keep up with the ever-changing technology, AR’s media-savvy practitioners and groupies flock to conventions, and this autumn Brock University professor Kevin Kee is organizing Canada’s largest such gathering.
The Ontario Augmented Reality Network (OARN) conference on Oct. 5 at the Toronto Reference Library will draw some of the world’s biggest AR superstars. Futurists, including WIRED magazine contributing editor Bruce Sterling, a sci-fi author and AR guru, will be joined by speakers Gene Becker, principal instigator of Samsung’s mobile and service user experience design group, and by Helen Papagiannis, one of Canada’s leading AR designers and consultants.
Kee, the Canada Research Chair in Digital Humanities, says augmented reality is a perfect space for fusing the potential of research with the power of industry. Gatherings like the one in Toronto, he says, “are what will flush out the up-and-comers who will become the Microsofts of augmented reality.”
Kee is an associate professor of Brock’s departments of History and of Digital Humanities. A former project director of history and new media at the National Film Board of Canada, Kee does research using computing to express culture in innovative ways. Last year, his Brock team developed a GPS-guided interactive tour of War of 1812 sites that became an iTunes app.
He says AR is revolutionizing the way we absorb information.
“In the next few years, we’re going to be able to wear glasses or contact lenses that display relevant information about the world around us,” Kee said. “But it’s not just that. AR is augmenting the real world with computing. It’s limitless – you can make AR whatever you want.”