MoKC: The Pigeon Tour Guide WebAR, The John F Kennedy Centre
Augmented Reality is a technology that takes the world around you and adds virtual content on top such that it looks like it's actually there in the real world.
While Augmented Reality may seem ultra-modern, the principles behind it have been around for some time. As far back as the 1950s and 60s clever folk in leading Universities were conducting extensive experiments on "human-computer interaction". It was an exciting time to be a nerd – "virtual reality", "portable computing", "immersion", all previously in the sphere of science fiction, were now being crafted and defined in labs around the world.
In the past the sheer computing power needed to augment reality wasn't very accessible – it was pretty expensive! While this made it difficult for consumers to adopt AR, it did see a good number of business and military uses. From automotive design to aircraft assembly, architecture to archaeology, fighter-jets to medicine, it's made it easier and more efficient for people to do their jobs.
As more powerful personal computers with webcams emerged, consumer friendly AR became more of a reality. It began to be used by brands and their agencies in marketing campaigns, with early adopters including the likes of Coca-Cola and Marvel. To run these PC-based experiences users had to download the AR application to their desktop. While there was a degree of novelty about these experiences, being tethered to a laptop or large screen meant the potential consumer application was limited.
With the dawn of smartphones, with better cameras, faster processors, greater network coverage and download speeds; AR made the leap to mobile.
This was a ‘game changer’ for the technology as smartphone prices tumbled, penetration grew exponentially worldwide and the app store reinvented whole industries. Augmented Reality on mobile begins a new era of connectivity between the physical world and digital devices, opening up a hidden world of additional content in the things we see around us. It takes the experience of looking down at your phone, disconnected from the everyday, and makes you look up and see the world with a different lens.