It wasn’t just the cars at Auto Expo 2012 that left visitors awestruck. Anand Mahindra, managing director, Mahindra & Mahindra, was seen petting a cheetah sitting comfortably on the Mahindra XUV 500. The audience too could “interact” with the animal as it paced along the car. The reason why it didn’t bite off people’s hands was that it was in fact a virtual cheetah, brought to life by augmented reality (AR).
The future of technology, AR will bridge the gap between the digital and the real worlds.
As the name suggests, AR is a reality augmented by technology. It is a live view of the real world environment supplemented by computerised sensory inputs. For example, a phone enriched with AR, when held up to night sky, can show the exact layout and location of the stars.
On the Harvard Business Review blog, John Sviokla and Anand Rao explain in their article, ‘How will augmented reality affect your business?’, “It is the idea that locations, devices, even the human body will be ‘augmented’ by linking and overlaying additional information on top of ‘regular’ reality.”
In simulating the real and the virtual world, we need processor, display, sensors and input devices along with the software that integrates augmented and real worlds together. The software captures the coordinates of the real world, which are analysed by the computer to compose and show the augmented picture.
The same technology was applied by Mahindra at Auto Expo 2012. Many businesses, including Starbucks (for the Valentine’s Day e-gift) and IKEA (for its Catalogue App) are using the technology, and they are benefitting through more customer engagement and leads.
Pranav Mistry, an MIT graduate, is one of those who has developed a technology, ‘Sixth Sense’, that makes use of AR. At the Mysore TED conference, he showcased how the technology allows people to use the Internet without a screen or keyboard — just make the gesture of taking a photo and the photograph will be clicked; look at a flight ticket to find out if the flight is delayed. It can also recognise news in the paper and retrieve latest videos about it from the Internet. His aim is to bring the technology to the masses; something like that would cost around $350.
Hence, in the future, we can see widespread application of AR in our day-to-day lives, as well as in specific areas such as arts, medicine, science and business. It is the technology that all of us will be experiencing and living with.
(The author is currently in the final year of the MBA in Operations and Systems programme at Christ University, Bangalore.)