Do you recall the original Terminator movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger portraying a cyborg sent from the future to kill someone in our time? On a number of occasions during the movie, we saw the world through the cyborg's eyes, with additional information being overlaid on the scene he was observing.
This was an early depiction of augmented reality, which refers to a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphical, and textural data.
About 12 years ago I saw some very interesting work in the augmented reality arena, including a pilot flying a plane with a computer screen in front of him instead of a window (his co-pilot did have a window and was poised to take over if there were any problems).
A photorealistic 3D model of the outside world was displayed on the screen in front of the pilot. This was augmented with imagery from a variety of radar systems (so if something flew in front of the plane, it would appear on the screen).
The interesting thing was that the pilot was attempting a real-world landing at a small airport in a tricky, mountainous terrain. Displayed on the screen in front of the pilot was a "corridor" of rectangles in the form of glowing lines that were superimposed on the scene. It looked like a computer game, with the pilot flying his real-world plane down the "corridor."
The idea was that, even at night or on a foggy day, the pilot could be presented with a scene that looked as though the world was in bright daylight. My understanding is that pilots consistently achieved better landings using this experimental technology than they did using more traditional approach techniques.
Of course, this was some time before the days of smartphones and tablets and us all having GPS-based location information at our fingertips. There are already a variety of forms of augmented reality that are commercially available, with many more on the way. Personally, I don’t think that many of us really have a clue as to how pervasive augmented reality has the potential to become.
Take a look at this YouTube video, for example. This depicts a variety of possible augmented reality scenarios in which a young lady looks at the world through the screen of her smartphone.
When she points it at the sky, she is presented with the immediate weather forecast, along with a simulation of raindrops falling on her screen. When she points the smartphone at an art gallery, she is informed as to current exhibits. Looking at a tram via the smartphone returns details as to destinations and schedules. Pointing the smartphone at a hotel provides an indication as to which rooms are currently occupied and which remain available.
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