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Augmented reality: the future is truly here

First, there was virtual reality.  Then there were virtual worlds.  Now, we have augmented reality, and it may change the landscape of books entirely.

It’s the stuff of many science fiction scenes; open up a newspaper or a book and, instead of  2-dimensional text, 3-dimensional images pop up.  Imagine looking at an Ikea catalog and seeing the items in 3D.  Or seeing 3D models of historical buildings in a history textbook.  Imagine no more; the technology is here, and it is called augmented reality.

Augumented reality, however, unlike the stuff of science fiction, is not totally independent.  It requires software and a webcam in order to work.  From an article at Wired.com:

It superimposes 3D objects (like the UFOs) onto the real world through camera recognition software, which is downloaded by a user after the book is bought. The only thing needed is a modern web cam on a Windows-based PC.  The key to the AR trick lies in the image-processing software that recognizes the book using the camera and the ‘markerless’ tracking system that creates a combo image in real time.

This new technology is already in use, in advertising, Christomas cards and even graffiti.  One German company is planning to publish at least one children’s book using the technique.  And, of course, the iPhone has an application for it as well. Here’s a video showing an augmented reality app on the iPhone:

So,what does this mean to me, Laura?

  1. The definition of “pop-up book” may soon be expanded or changed.
  2. If this is widely adopted, it may change the fundamentals of reading.  Will your library be prepared, with webcams and software installed so that people can read AR books?
  3. Imagine creating library tours in AR.  By using a webcam, visitors could see displays, furniture and signage
  4. Even LEGOS are getting AR-enabled.