Will Augmented Reality Become a New Platform for Filmmakers?

On August 2nd, 2012 Rachel Metz posted a Technology Review article that updates recent developments in augmented reality.

Augmented reality typically adds a layer of digital information over real world environments.

As Rachel Metz observes: "Early augmented-reality smartphone apps used a device's GPS and digital compass to determine your location and direction. More recently, app makers have begun incorporating computer vision and increasingly powerful processors to provide greater accuracy."

In our newly wirelessly-connected world, users are no longer startled when digital information is delivered to mobile devices that detect our precise location in helpful ways. For example, heads-up displays of GPS directions are one kind of augmented reality experience that (based on our experiences with Garmin and smartphone navigation apps) we'll soon take for granted. And futurists have imagined many other augmented reality applications and devices - some of which will soon be coming to market.

It's all about enhancing the real world with virtual information in ways that will be increasingly interactive and immediate. For example, as a filmmaker I can't wait for entertainment experiences that include motion pictures that are superimposed over the real world in exciting new ways. As mobile smartphones with more sophisticated technology become pervasive and new devices (like Google Glass, picture above) become available, the market for augmented reality apps should quickly grow. While Google Glass can show maps, messages, and other data to the wearer, I am intrigued about the potential for entertainment in this new category of device: "While not strictly focused on augmented reality, Project Glass draws attention to the idea of a digital layer on top of the physical world."

Can you imagine Godzilla chasing you - and interacting with the real buildings around you? What about a filmed car chase and shootout that can only be seen when the viewer arrives at a secret location? For another example of how entertainment and augmented reality might co-evolve, here's a video about an augmented reality platform, Layar, that one developer has used to superimpose flying saucers over a real cityscape - suggesting how gamers (and "moviegoers"?) might soon experience augmented reality:

Here's a current example of how augmented reality enhances the business card of technologist David Wood. Holding David Wood's business card up to a webcam initiates an online video (featuring David Wood) that responds to the movement of the card in front of the camera:

Here's another fascinating demonstration of how an ARTag on a business card can add amazing 3D visual information into a scene captured by a webcam - adding cool digital images that seem almost to become part of a real world scene:

Finally, here's a short film by Israeli student filmmakers Eran May-raz and Daniel Lazo that depicts how an augmented reality user interface (creepy retinal implants) might work - if it included (purely fictional) administrator privileges that allowed the user to control other people.

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