AR for the rest of us

“Making the camera the first AR platform”
Source: Facebook

Augmented reality (AR) touted at Facebook’s F8 with a place of honor on Facebook’s 10 year roadmap as one of three technology areas Facebook is going to focus on. Mark Zuckerberg stated in his short keynote that Facebook is “making the camera the first augmented reality platform” which, with their strengths in machine learning and the social graph, might make for some very powerful tools. That said, there are many smaller, more focused applications that are better suited for widespread adoption of AR, even on today’s hardware.

Take, for example, the Vivino app. I know very little about wine, but I do appreciate a good glass every once in a while. Vivino gives instant access to wine rankings for almost 11 million wines from a community of 23 million users who care about wine enough to rank and write reviews. Their wine list implementation is extremely helpful. All users need to do is take a photo of the list and the app provides rankings for each wine and a handy color scale.

This is one of the first times I have seen a useful implementation of AR, aside from Google’s Translate app, and I started thinking what makes an AR app practical?

  1. Immediate: does it use the phone camera, with either a live view or a photo or does it require dedicated hardware? A phone is much easier to access. Also, how many steps are needed before the information added?
  2. Saves time: does the app replace a search or, even better, several searches? Does it automate data entry by recognizing the text? Does it replace a task often done on the go? For me, that’s usually searching undecipherable menu items in hipstery restaurants.
  3. Visually simple: is the additional information is presented in a way that isn’t too complex to understand at a glance? It shouldn’t be a complicated infographic, but a few additional data points.
  4. Adds value: does the added layer of data add value? Does it provide actionable data? Too much data or irrelevant data can be a nuisance, especially for AR apps on the go.
  5. Doing the math: can the additional data be manipulated in a way to provide more value? For Vivino. there was a suggestion to calculate points per dollar/euro so that users can quickly choose the best wine their money can buy. For other applications, say a grocery app, a photo of products can provide initial value with a health ranking (similar to Fooducate) and a cost per serving.

Finally, one of the cooler uses of AR discussed at F8 was the mesh between facial recognition and the social graph, where, via a pair of AR glasses, names pop up above people relevant to you in a crowd. For people such as me, who are better at faces than at names, that would be amazing. Till then, I’m hoping to discover a few more practical ones.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s