December 3, 2012

'Augmented reality' presents a new frontier for tech companies, news sites

By Andrea Kurth
Google’s new application for Android, Field Trip, is looking to change the way that users interact with geolocation information on their phones.

Field Trip is “your guide to the cool, hidden, and unique things in the world around you,” according to its overview on Google Play. Basically, its purpose is to constantly analyze your location on your phone, and to inform you of interesting or pertinent details relating to the location through an automatic pop-up notification — Android will even read the information aloud to you through a headset or Bluetooth.

Field Trip is just one of the most recent pieces in one of Google’s latest ventures — augmented reality — a way to combine the user’s physical world with online or other information through implementation of words or pictures overlaid on displays.

Mobile Commerce Press estimates that in 2013 alone, $300 million of mobile commerce revenue — that is, revenue from selling apps and features for smart phones and tablets — will come from augmented reality applications. The technology is rapidly on the rise, and proves to be one of the applications for smart phones with the greatest potential for growth and exploration.

Augmented reality has already seen a significant increase in investment in 2012, with retailers, advertisers, and the entertainment business interested in pursuing applications for their businesses in this venture.

Furthermore, technologies like Google Glass are creating even more possibilities for this “augmented reality” frontier. The instrument is like a pair of glasses, but without lenses, that users can wear on their faces and read information like the weather, directions, appointments, and much more, without looking at their phone or computer. Basically, there is a screen positioned above and to the right of the wearer’s right eye, which processes, stores, and conveys the users information. Although Google Glass is at the very early prototype stages, it presents endless possibilities for the future of geolocation technology, as well as augmented reality.

There are many other augmented reality applications in development as well, such as CrowdOptic, a startup software which utilizes information gathered when a user points their phone at an event or place to create and deliver a stream of curated content related to the event. Users can then join a discussion with other people in the cluster, contributing comments, photos, or videos, or access relevant and exclusive content generated by eyewitness accounts of the event.

Although all these technologies are in development stages, augmented reality presents a very unique and useful application for news organizations and publications. It would allow news to find users, as opposed to vice versa, virtually injecting news stories onto people’s very smart phones, tablets, or Google Glasses without the users having to search for the information or prompt their devices to do the same. Publications would be able to create geolocation based news feeds, telling users what is going on around them in seconds, and basically creating a newspaper laid out across a city in a web of maps.

By providing users with pertinent content automatically, news organizations may be able to once again capture the audience that they have been losing in significant numbers during recent years. The possibilities, as of now, are endless, and news organizations must start investigating novel ways to implement this technology into news dissemination if they wish to succeed in the new media ecosystem.

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