AR Logo Helps Augmented Reality Toward the Mainstream

At the recent ARE2010 show in Santa Clara, one of the leading players in augmented reality (AR), Total Immersion, pitched this logo in an attempt to help the AR community raise awareness among consumers.

Over the past years many of those involved in AR have spent a lot of time discussing what the technology actually is. Confusion arises because there are two main strands of AR. The first uses a device’s camera to track an object, identifies it and overlays information on the camera image. This is a form of “computer vision”, as the device can identify what it sees. Examples are shown on Total Immersion’s site. The second is the version normally found in mobile applications; data from the device’s GPS and compass are used to pull information from a Web database, which is then displayed on the camera image. A good example is Layar.

The use of “computer vision” AR has started to spread in marketing campaigns, with recent examples including BNP Paribas, Nike, Nissan, the Star Trek movie, and an advert for Coke Zero and the Avatar movie. Several location-based AR apps are seeing high numbers of downloads on iPhones and Android devices. The cameras and graphics processing in high-end phones have improved enough that the two strands of AR are starting to converge. There is a strong feeling in the AR industry that it is at a tipping point, from which it will see very rapid growth.

Our own mobile Internet user survey bears this out to some extent. When asking about future services people would like to see on their phone, we saw AR as the third-most popular response, after unlimited music and catch-up TV. Because of the confusion surrounding AR, we were careful to describe it as a service to “identify people and places by pointing your phone’s camera at them”.

If we are to see a period of strong growth for AR, Total Immersion is right to think that it would be good to raise awareness, develop a consistent understanding via a common logo and set expectations among suppliers, users and companies using it in their marketing. Texas Instruments is proposing that the AR industry adopt the logo as a standard to use in apps, as well as in other places where AR could be used, such as retail and digital signs.

I think the logo’s a good idea and will help spread the word among suppliers and consumers. But there’s a risk. At present there’s no collective group or trade body for AR suppliers, so the industry has no way of policing use of the logo. If the logo is at all successful, the industry will soon need to set up some minimum standards for how it’s used and to monitor its use.

That’s not a large or unusual risk. It’s just part of what’s needed as an industry starts to move into the mainstream. There will inevitably be other areas of AR that need collective attention, such as technical standards and licensing issues.