What is Augmented Reality (AR)?
Augmented Reality is a class of applications that enhances user’s perceptions by overlaying information and graphics unto their field of view. The user’s location and direction are transmitted wirelessly to a web service that provides information specific to that area. The view is interactive, allowing the user to specify the type of information and submit data back to the web service. The interface is natural in that it maps directly to the user’s perspective. A user need only view an object of interest to retrieve more information.
How does AR work on the iPhone?
The latest version of the iPhone, the iPhone 3GS, provides location and direction information courtesy of an embedded GPS and magnetometer. Combined with an inertial movement sensor, the Accelerometer, the iPhone provides a rich set of controls for maneuvering through an AR. The iPhone also has a camera that provides a updated view of the user’s point of view (POV).
Potential Government Applications of AR
Large geo-spatial projects, such as Everyblock.com, have shown that context is critical for much of the data currently provided by state and local governments. By incorporating this information into a format that augments a user’s current context, this information is at once more accessible and more relevant to the user.
As seen in the last bullet, an AR provides an avenue for both information retrieval, AND reporting. An AR can quickly allow a user to record video, and upload it to a server anonymously with a simple touch of the screen. The location, direction, heading of the object of interest are all reported instantly. This information can also be archived.
Invisible City Concept
An AR can provide a complete platform for a local municipality, such as a city, that combines information from several agencies into a cohesive information structure that is navigated through a physical, geo-interface. This concept, called Invisible City, can provide value to citizens and below are three scenarios where new and extended value can be provided:
Scenario: Wayfinding & Virtual Tours
Which way to the museum? Where are the nearest subway stations? Who were the original inhabitants of the historic home in front of me? What building houses the U.S. Constitution? What new exhibits just arrived and which are nearest to me?
I’m in the Capital Building, what office is my Senator located? Direct me to the office of my district’s Congressman (calculates my district based upon my address, gives me directions inside the building).
Scenario: Virtual Department of Transportation
I am sitting in traffic. Tell a central traffic service and find available alternate routes. Is this road consistently over burdened? Notify state planners that the road needs expansion. Are there planned road closings? Changing patterns due to construction? Are there too many potholes in the road?
Scenario: Collaborative Crime-fighting
I see a crime being committed, one tap on the emergency button and I immediately start uploading video and still photos to local authorities. My position and direction are automatically embedded in my notification and it is completely anonymous. The next day I notice what appears to be suspicious activity down the alley. I send a brief description, w/photos and post it to an online bulletin board. My contact info is automatically embedded in case there are questions. I later find out that one of the people was on a missing person’s list.
Equal parts designer and developer, Rob holds an opinion tragically
uncommon for his field: he believes that technology should appear as beautiful to the user as it does to the developer. As a User Experience Designer for SRA International he has lead several design projects, including recent work for the Maryland Dept. of Health & Mental Hygiene, the American Red Cross, Missile Defense Agency and the Environmental Protection Agency. He also runs his own design company, Digital Arch, which provides end-to-end design & development services for small businesses. He’s an advocate for user-centered design and knows how to sell it to those not often concerned with the everyday user. During his tenure at the Naval Research Laboratory he became the youngest ever recipient of the Berman Research Award at the age of 21.
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