Imagine you got someone before you who has a general interest in augmented reality. ‘Yeah, putting digital layers on top of my physical surroundings, I like that. Pretty cool, and hey, I got this fancy new smartphone.’ Which app would you recommend?
I asked the question on the Google+ Augmented Reality community page. I suggested Layar, Junaio or Wikitude. Professor Blair MacIntyre at Georgia Tech was kind enough to answer. He said that it depends on what the user wants to do – but those apps are not very generally useful. I must admit that this corresponds with my own appreciation: even though I’m a fan of the possibilities of Augmented Reality, I don’t have such a ‘wow’-feeling when I actually stare through my smartphone to find out where some restaurant is or to find some wikipedia-entry floating around. Often I get the feeling that Google Maps – especially the newest version on the iPhone 5 – is hard to beat (can we consider that as Augmented Reality?).
Anyway, here is what MacIntyre told me:
The fundamental problem with “the AR browsers” is that they impose a single User Interface on top of the data they display. So, if you want to build something that is different than just looking at some data or animated models (i.e.., virtually anything useful or interesting) you can’t easily do t with them. They are good for small things, and displaying bits of data.
Compare them to web browsers, where each site has its own look, feel and behavior. Sure, many are vanilla, but most aren’t.
That’s why we started working on Argon years ago as a research project. It’s coming along, and I expect more and more we will see AR integrated into apps and eventually Operating Systems.
Heretical hypothesis: Until AR is part of the Operating System, it probably won’t be that useful for consumers.
MacIntyre is project director of the augmented reality browser Argon, in this video he explains the ideas behind that browser: