We’ve seen AR before. Displaying images over the a live image that your phone is seeing. It’s all very cool. However, things have moved on a little since then and Metaio look to be pushing things on pretty quickly.
Already they have companies like IKEA using their solution, which lets customers flick through their catalogue and, after downloading an app, put various bits of furniture “virtually” in their house.
However, there’s a bit of a problem. The “virtual” furniture can crash into other “real” bits of furniture in the room and if something should display in front of it. As an example, if you want a virtual chair behind your real dining table, it’ll just display that virtual chair all over the top of it. With the aid of a depth sensor (much like the one on the HTC One M8, but now sadly missing on the HTC One M9), you get this..
The IKEA catalogue gets dumped on the floor as the “reference point” for the virtual chair in the video above, but things can go further. What about shopping? Let’s say you’re out at your local supermarket and want to find the best deals. Yes, you could go and search on a comparison app for the best price, but searching for the product in question can take time. Even scanning the barcode is a bit fiddly, so Metaio have been looking at other options. This solution looks at the design of packaging and, using a cloud-connected app, it can display information about the calorie content, allergy information etc.
The next step? Metaio have come up with a thermal camera attachment which, if it gets built into handsets, can detect the warmth from a fingerprint. This means that simply by pressing on a piece of paper, they can track which section you’ve touched and launch apps or trigger an action. Here’s a brilliant demonstration of that in action. It’s a lot more fun than a QR code. Here’s both the thermal camera and the shopping system in action.
Metaio also be used by mechanics to learn how to repair certain cars. This will guide them around a vehicle and tell them where certain parts of the engine are.
Mechanics working on VW cars are already using this system already.
With the aid of glasses they can get an even better look at the detail and work hands-free on the problem. Whether this will expand to operating theatres remains to be seen ;)
Also on offer, and in use right now in Pandora stores, a system for selecting earrings, placing them on your ears and then wearing them “virtually”. This is ideal if a certain pair of earrings aren’t in stock. You can try them on without actually trying them on..
I’ve got to say, if the hardware is available (and hopefully we can see both depth and thermal sensors built into more handsets), the applications are plentiful. Being able to touch a piece of paper and order something is brilliant, as is the instant “product information app”. However, it’s whether hardware manufacturers will support some of the additional kit required for some of this clever trickery, as until then it’ll be the existing augmented reality systems we have now.