How augmented reality will change the world as we know it

AR is a fun technology, but it's also highly useful…

Retail therapy

Moving away from fashion, here's an AR application with genuine real-world aspirations – Cimagine Media's markerless AR system is an impressive furniture retail tool. Combining high-end image processing with the internal sensors on mobile devices, Cimagine's 360-degree 'Super-Reality' technology renders objects realistically in order to maintain scale and position.

Cimagine

Lay out your living room with the help of Cimagine's AR tech

Users are able to view AR furniture from all angles and distances on their tablet or smartphone, while positioning it live, at home, in real-world environments. AR furniture can be accurately manipulated by touch on screen to define the best fit within an intended environment.

Incredibly effective, it provides an accurate idea of how new sofas, tables and so forth would look in your sitting room, and is now part of Shop Direct's e-commerce platform.

Another home retail solution, DigitalBridge, allows users to visualise virtual furnishings and home decorations onto stills of their own rooms, and uses advanced computer vision technology to redecorate.

Users snap a photo of a room with a tablet or smartphone and DigitalBridge's 'Advanced Computer Vision' platform converts the real-world scene into a digital model, realistically rendering walls, the floor and ceiling, objects and lighting conditions within the room, to ensure that the AR redecoration is convincing. And boy is it convincing, providing real-world representations of new wallpaper, paint colour or sofa coverings, and it could spell the end for those sample paint pots.

Virtual greetings

And perhaps Popcards with herald the end of the static greetings card too. A free app available for iOS and Android, using technology from printing industry AR developer Layar, it allows users to create printed greetings cards that come to life with AR video. Users simultaneously take a photo and film a personal video, and the photo is printed on the card with a personal message. The card can then be scanned by the recipient using the same Popcards app, displaying the video instead of the photo, like one of the 'living' photographs in the Harry Potter movies.

But it looks as if things might come full circle with augmented reality technology, with the car industry pushing things further into our daily, real-world lives. And this time it's not that overly-used application of seeing under the bonnet without lifting the hood!

Reports suggest that the first car to boast AR tech is likely to be the new BMW G30 5 Series, with useful information displayed on the windscreen. Not a new idea, and mooted for a while, if reports are correct the new 5 Series would make the sort of HUD (heads up display) car tech we've long since seen in movies such as Minority Report a reality.

So, as well as speed, temperature and all the usual 'heads down' display items, the AR windscreen could show the safe distance to cars ahead, road markings (when there are none) and road and weather warnings – as well as the ubiquitous sat nav.

Of course, as the lines continue to blur between what constitutes augmented reality and virtual reality (Magic Leap's 'just another day in the office' video is one of the best examples) and the two technologies continue to overlap, real-world AR applications will continue to proliferate – albeit, somewhat ironically, in a more virtual environment.

But whether it's actual reality that is being augmented by AR or our virtual realities, one thing is certain – the porn industry will be ahead of the curve. Of course, that's another article for another (X-rated) day!