Augmented Reality Still Too Jumpy

MetaioLego Snippets of augmented reality peek through the slides in my Rising Media Expectations talk and Digital Fitness webcasts, but most AR isn't ready for prime time.

Marker-based desktop apps like GE's Smart Grid promotion get early-adopting users to print a special target and jiggle it in front of a web cam, but a little too much jiggling, bad lighting or a pokey PC can easily trash the 3D effect. GPS-driven AR browsers like Layar and Wikitude cram lots of data onto a small smartphone screen, but then the jiggle comes from the user's compass tracking, network latency and GPS synch. Professional augmented video like the virtual first-down line and digital product placement make it look easy; by comparison, today's AR apps don't offer a solid user experience.

And yet. We can imagine many opportunities to link data to the physical world. We already have a lot of location data on-line. Our culture is increasingly infographical. And smartphones with mobile broadband are obviouiesly coming on strong. If we can get it right, there should be some great work to be done.

ARNY, a new Meetup Group in New York City, showcases demos of new work: "5 speakers, 5 AR demos, 5 minutes each + Q&A." Last night's meeting was held at 75 Varick Street, a building that was once a major center of New York's printing industry. Now it's home to Porter Novelli, one of the best tech PR firms that is smartly creating a beachhead for itself in AR. The demos included games (yawn), some proofs of concept, and a few interesting apps for Zagat and Lego. As important, pioneers got together to nudge and wink over the latest inventions, gossip and vendor perfidy, the first steps in building a serious tech community in naked reality. Organizers Ori Inbar and Chris Grayson do a very good job.

The whole program is available on-line via fuzzy web cam over UStream.TV.

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