While Augmented Reality technology has been a topical point of interest these last couple of weeks at events like SWSWi in Austin and CTIA Wireless 2010 in Las Vegas, there has been very little talk of the suitability of utilizing AR features with the new tablets that will be flooding the market in the next couple of months. Granted, iPad's sin of omission by not including a camera or webcam kind of eliminates them from consideration, but it seems to me that the 10" tablet versus the 3" smartphone screen would provide users with a greater opportunity to view AR overlays, markers, advertising, points of interest and other layers of data that AR is known for.
So while the HP, Notion Ink Adam, Dell and Archos battle it out in the Tablet Wars for market dominance, perhaps the winning device will be the one that partners up with an augmented reality firm like Total Immersion or Layar. For those that don't know, augmented reality is an interactive experience where virtual components are dynamically merged with our real-time physical world. This can be done with static street scenes or live video streams. Here's an example as how a bottle of Coke Zero was able to control an Avatar helicopter on a computer screen.
My research on this topic surfaced one very savvy designer in Tokyo who was thinking along the same lines as myself. Mac Funamizu has designed a prototype he calls the "Looking Glass" tablet that includes a camera, a GPS module and of course Internet connectivity.
Funamizu's vision for his device would also feature a touch-screen, scanner, WiFi, image search and Google tools including Google Maps, Google Earth and Google Search. In the visual below, augmented reality could then tie the stats and info about a specific building identifying location markers such as the address, floor location and phone number - even down to whether or not your contact was currently in the building.
Augmented Reality for Tablets finding buildings
Any object could be detailed in a similar fashion whether it be a car model, an animal's name and species or the menu and pricing of a specific restaurant. Indoors, your tablet could be used for providing hyperlinks to articles you read in the newspaper, the size font of the print and any additional content you'd like to research pertaining to your topic of interest.
Indoor use of your tablet
The scanning device would highlight certain keywords so you can conduct a quick search on Google, check Wikipedia, the Thesaurus, spell check, etc.
Last September, Funamizu won the 2009 'reddot design' award for the 'Looking Glass.' Considered one of the most prestigious design awards in the world, it distinguishes a winner's design as a barometer for the future - a preview of products to come.
As far as products that will be available for purchase in 2010, the Dell Mini 5 while not the full 10 inches of some of the others, will certainly provide developers a bigger landscape to play with AR functionality.
Tom Soderlund, creator of Ghostwire, an augmented reality game also talks about the likelihood of tablets accommodating AR, but in his opinion he finds them more suitable for strategy games.
Christopher BargerWhen I interviewed Christopher Barger, director of global social for General Motors in an article titled, "Mad Men 360: Augmented Reality Breaks New Ground in Advertising," he thinks “larger viewing screens are definitely a great feature of tablets and they certainly set the stage for a second application renaissance and plenty of opportunities for Chevy products.”
Utilizing augmented reality, Chevy just launched their new free app call "Chevy iReveal" at SXSWi. A location-based game to find & unlock virtual Chevy vehicles hidden across the United States. With Chevy iReveal, you can see new virtual vehicles on real streets, take pictures & share with your friends via Twitter, Facebook or e-mail. Once unlocked, you can experience Chevrolet’s coolest new models with 360° 3D models in this augmented-reality overlay for your iPhone 3G and 3GS. A tablet would be the perfect device for this game.
So will augmented reality become an essential component of the new tablets? And if not on the first wave? - perhaps when Apple learns from its mistakes and the others realize the missed opportunities not only in creating greater functionality for their devices and their customers, but also in the advertising deals that can be struck with the smartphone manufacturers. Let me your thoughts, readers!