MWC 2012: Best of Augmented Reality

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Mobile World Congress 2012The Mobile Worldwide Congress (MWC) 2012 has certainly been the main focal point of all digital news for the past week. The astonishing 41 megapixel Nokia or the latest quad-core phones from the likes of HTC, LG or Huawei have surely excited all technology-enthusiasts out there. And with such high-end mobile devices expected for 2012, augmented reality has found the perfect platforms to launch its latest developments.

Quieter than usual, AR developers and agencies have also been present at MWC and their latest announcements show that they have finally understood that the “gimmicky” phase of AR is slowly coming to an end. Taking advantage of the latest mobile technology and by using the experience accumulated in the last few years, they are starting to take important steps in the right direction.

Metaio – The Augmented City Platform

One of the most exciting AR developments presented at MWC 2012 came from the German AR developer Metaio. Through their Augmented City Platform they have demonstrated what their new software developer kit (SDK) is capable of.

Working with hardware manufacturers such as Texas Instruments, ST-Ericson and ARM, Metaio promises that their new and, most importantly, free SDK comes with some great features for the AR ecosystem:

Augmented Reality Experience Language (AREL) based on HTML5 and JavaScript is one of the first attempts of creating a much-awaited standardised AR language, independent of platform, which can easily be used by developers for creating interactive and immersive AR applications. The popularity and adoption of AREL by non-Metaio developers raise some serious questions marks especially when other important AR companies are expected to launch something similar in 2012.

Metaio Creator, dubbed as the next Wikitude My World creator, is considered to be a serious step up from the basic application which allows non-developers to create their own AR layers. Targeted at marketers and other non-programmers, the Metaio Creator promises to deliver “compelling augmented reality experiences”. Whether this will be the case remains to be seen after 14th March, the official launch date.

Metaio 3D Tracking3D object tracking and realistic 3D information are two very important features of the new SDK, especially when so many mobile gadgets are more than capable of carrying 3D tasks. Following on the work of Microsoft Kinect and Layar Vision to name a few, Metaio is among the first in the industry to include both tracing and rendering functionalities in a freely available SDK. And the Augmented City Platform app talks for itself.

Qualcomm – Vuforia

A relatively new entry in the augmented reality market is the successful mobile hardware manufacturer Qualcomm, who launched at MWC 2012 a new version of their AR platform named Vuforia.

Despite missing some of the latest AR developments such as 3D object tracking or cloud-based recognition, Vuforia can benefit enormously from Qualcomm’s know-how in mobile technology.  Being able to create bespoke software for the future mobile hardware is certainly one of the key advantages of Qualcomm in the augmented reality race. And with a ‘non-gimmicky’ approach, demonstrated through the intuitive and functionality-based AR app built on the new platform, Vuforia is definitely a name to be followed in the near future.

Aurasma – Live Web Updates

A rather confusing AR development announced at MWC 2012 by the AR browser Aurasma is their live web updates feature. We use the term ‘confusing’ because with no official press release section on their website, Aurasma relies solely on digital media websites for spreading the news about a development which can be understood in two ways.

If the company’s new development refers to a location-based live feed, it can hardly be considered news, as most other AR browsers had been already using this feature for some time. Seeing the latest tweets, Instagram photos or Facebook updates from your nearby friends through an AR browser is widely available.

Nevertheless, if Aurasma refers to live web updates based on image/ object recognition, it is quite disappointing that such a development, which can truly help them make a name for themselves in the AR industry, is being missed through poor communications management. This development can potentially have a great success in the marketing and m-commerce industries by allowing time sensitive offers and increasing brand engagement (e.g. pointing an AR-enabled mobile camera to a Domino’s Pizza bus stop advert gives you 40% off if you order in the next 10 minutes through their mobile website). However, having a great technology that nobody knows about is not of much use.

Blippar – Augmented Reality m-commerce

Tesco AR by BlipparBlippar, the AR marketing specialists who are already starting to make a name for themselves through the success they had in working with some big global brands such as Unilever, Nestle, Heinz or Xbox, have launched at MWC 2012 a new mobile AR service. The new ‘Blipp to Buy’ service allows companies to merge augmented reality with m-commerce.

Successfully tested across the UK with Tesco and ASOS, the new service allows users of Blippar to directly buy products featured in AR marketing campaigns, bringing brands and users together. The new AR service takes advantage of the increasing popularity of mobile e-commerce and augmented reality and provides a new revenue stream for publishers.

Which of these AR developments will significantly influence the AR market in 2012? Has augmented reality industry finally understood that usability, integration and standards are key developments in the AR wide adoption? We would like to hear your thoughts on these issues in the comments section below.

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