Information anywhere to information everywhere.

So we are all used to the fact that if we need information or have something we want answered the information is there easily accessed. We can go online, using a computer or a phone and get it. so what is the next step? Reducing physical barriers to access that information.

Smart phones have gone a long way - you can access the Internet from anywhere, so long as you have a connection but you are still limited due to the size of the phone and browser interface. Augmented reality is breaking those barriers down even further. It is a variety of technologies that enable the embedding or layering of information in objects and activities. AR blends real senses with virtual information.

What does Augmented Reality look like?
AR is still a fringe technology but one that is seeing fast development. Currently AR still uses the mobile phone using the camera and GPS in order to layer information. It is most commonly used in marketing campaigns.

A good example is the 'We are Autobots' Campaign for the Transformers movie. It uses the camera and face recognition technology to overlay a CGI image of Optimus Prime head onto peoples face. Some firms are more practical and using similar technology to help sell apparel – allowing people to try them on virtually before they buy.

There are prototypes being developed that will enable a smoother experience. SixthSense has made a pendant that projects images and recognises hand signals. This September Brother will be demonstrating the AiRScouter – a head mounted retinal imaging display that creates images in the air in front of you.

Challenges with Augmented Reality
One of the main limitations with AR is a deficiency of technology to enable an immersive experience. Most AR applications operate via a smartphone, which has a limited screen and can he awkward to use. Head-mounted displays are currently bulky and intrusive. Additionally AR focuses on hyperlocal information and in many cases GPS is not accurate enough.
Immersive AR is about five to ten years away. Until then its use will be hampered.

As with many new technologies AR will require learning new behaviours and social conventions. Pointing your phone at someone during conversation is rude and disruptive. With immersive AR that is less of a problem but other problems arise. Being able to instantly get loads of information about anyone you see threatens peoples privacy and can lead to behaviours such as profiling.

The increased access to information that AR allows is something that businesses need to be aware of. There is the potential to exacerbate issues that are already prevalent with other technologies such as social networking and the use of smartphones. Social networks can have a huge influence on a companies brand and smartphones enable customers to access product information and reviews in your store. AR not only makes this information easier to access but can add new layers.