No, it’s not an attempt to throw as many buzzwords into a title as possible, mobile augmented reality training is a new concept that a confluence of technologies has made possible. The idea of augmented reality applications is not new. The basic concept is that some type of display technology allows a computer-generated image to overlay a current view of the world. Here are some examples of how this can be implemented:
- A head-mounted display that is either semi-transparent or covers only 1 eye shows computer-generated images or text over a persons vision.
- A head-mounted display that completely obstructs a viewers vision displays a composite of computer-generated information with a live video feed of the viewers surroundings from a head-mounted camera.
- A combination of a camera and display in one unit (like a smartphone) that combines computer-generated information with the live feed coming from the units camera.
Additionally, these systems may have GPS, compass, and/or accelerometer technologies inside in order to track orientation and position. The exciting part is that more and more consumers are buying compatible systems of the third type without even realizing it: smartphones.
Some creative applications include:
- A face-recognition program that displays information about a person it recognizes next to their live image on the display.
- GPS directions overlaid on a live view of the road.
- Print advertising with interactive 3D product demos
- Indoor navigation that paints virtual lines on the floor for large facilities.
In addition to advertising, entertainment, and navigation, the potential for training has only begun to be realized. Having training materials available while in an actual working environment without them distracting or intruding on the worker is a key feature. Machinery can have instruction manuals pop up when looking at the controls, step-by-step guides can be visible while working on complex tasks, even paper manuals can have interactive 3D diagrams when viewed through the system. Since development tools are available for deploying applications on smartphones, the cost of entry is continually decreasing and the potential audience is increasing. Few instructional design groups are currently working in these technologies, so there is plenty of potential for new creative development.
If you are interested in finding out more, read the Wikipedia article on Augmented Reality. If you would like to try out some examples for yourself, and you have an iPhone 3GS or an Android device, download the Layar Reality Browser.