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« Largest Mobile Social Networks Today by Size of User Base | Main | Nokia Profit Warning (again) - Here is what you need to know why it is actually far worse »

April 11, 2012


Mark Heseltine

A really insightful post. But credit where it's due. There are a significant number of other players who brought AR technology to market long before Google goggles. You seem to be implying that AR would not be taking off if it weren't for google exploiting it, which is speculation at best. There is a reasonable history of AR on the wikipedia article.


Heya Mr. T:

Many thx for honorable mention, your cheque is in the mail.. 8-)

Agree.. I'v always been bullish on potential combining Digital & Physical worlds - still very early days for AR - 'imagine' 2020!

Wonder if you, and for readers here as well, had seen SmartAR?
See the video embedded there - especially towards end of 5-mins..

Cheers from Tokyo..


We all know that media are very powerful. They (dis)inform, they create tendencies, they influence people... so it's an easy guess that AR can be all that in more powerful.

It can be quite useful in everyday life : no need for a city guide, you have all information with you... it can monitor one driver's tiredness and show nearest hotels or places for a rest...

So it can help like a real media, like radio that informs about traffic jams, magazines that give reviews, etc.

In fact, if I understood it well, AR is a grouping of other media (all information that was originally printed or broadcast is stored in the net, and then accessible through mobile systems), so we have all advantages of these media (information and quick access to it) and all the risks (disinformation, manipulation) cumulated.

It's quite a powerful weapon, isn't it?

Bill Wessel

It's great to see AR finally get the attention it deserves. That said, it's probably only now that the technology needed to drive it is cheap enough and portable enough for mass production and consumer acceptance (maybe). Take a look at the work of Steve Mann to see how long the wearable component has been in gestation ( And it's this wearable aspect that is so compelling. The mobile phone "AR viewfinder" model was only going to take us so far.


Smartphones armed w/internet and now AR are just one more step of humans becoming Borg. Resistance is futile.

Maarten Lens-FitzGerald

Ah, this must then be the subject of your next book! (way better then the demise of nokia)


Tomi T Ahonen

Hi everybody

I really REALLY Wanted to leave this as the top posting on this blog through the weekend so we could properly celebrate this moment and random readers visiting the blog would see the story. But few minutes after I posted this, the Nokia thing happened and I've spent the next half day just fighting fires about the disasterous Nokia news and responding to comments and questions etc. I am SO sorry about that, this could have been a big day here on the blog just celebrating AR and the 8th Mass Medium.

I will return here when I am back to 'normal' and feeling happy again. But obviously the catastrophic Nokianews today has spoiled my day haha..

Cheers to all my pals here in the comments already! And PS the Bright Side of News also picked up on this story - thanks to them too!

Tomi Ahonen :-)


But there is no AR business model. A speaker at an event I attended once said that the appropriate way to understand AR is as an analogy to CSS, an overlay, a presentation layer and no more than that. I agree.

Salvador Blasco

Dear Stefan,

Regarding a biz model for AR, I do believe there is one and many to come, although probably it will take some time. My comments is based on the success of Moosejaw, an outdoors clothing company which combined mass media 1 (Print) with mass media 8 (AR). Their winter catalog provided this capability (with an app called x-ray where you could check an outfit and use the AR app to also check the models' underwater (ok,ok,ok hot models also sell) but their sales saw a +35% jump after introducing AR capability. Gizmodo ran an article on this in December


Great post Tomi, however the real question is not who will be first with an AR project, but who will be the first get the right implementation of Agumented Reality out of the door.

Google might be first, but there can always be someone else cooking up a superior implementation, just like it took the iPhone to converge the trends and really open up the smartphone market to the masses. Google glasses could end up being the Windows CE/Windows Mobile of Augmented Reality, Microsoft started a massive mobile OS effort, they realized the tremendous potential mobile will have in the 2010s, wile Google and Apple where nowhere near a full fledged modern mobile OS. So Google being first is far from them cornering the market.

And with Jobs gone, I doubt Apple can really compete anymore in getting into new markets, they'll turn into another Sony, churning out endless upgrades of the iPads and iPhones to death, like Sony did with trinitron and walkmen brand.


Now the real problem i see with Google glasses is control, it seems its being done by voice, some SIRI like system, and voice alone just wont cut it in real life situation, its inefficient, time consuming, distracting in a variety of situations.

What you need, is an eye tracker system, where you control the interface just by looking at it. And where do you go for that? Labs of defense contractors that right now have decades of real life experience with augmented reality, since head mounted displays are such an integral part of modern fighter plane doctrine and have been since the mid 80s.

Mikko Martikainen

As tab said, it's not necessarily about who does it first, but who does it right first. Though I believe the adoption rate for AR goggles will be slower than for smartphones for a number of reasons:

- Users that have eyeglasses (such as myself) are much more reluctant to add something on top of the glasses. For example, 3D movies are borderline unpleasant for me because the 3D goggles don't stay on well enough on top of my glasses.
- Smartphones benefited, and continue to benefit, from the incredible success of mobile phones in general. Switching from a feature phone to a smartphone is a matter of cost, mainly, there are no technical/fashion/habitual barriers preventing the switch. AR goggles have a big barrier in convincing people to use them in the first place (similar to bluetooth headsets, I think).
- Though technology will advance rapidly, it is still not there yet to achieve even near parity with smartphones. And smartphones will continue to advance, as well. Producing AR goggles that have the connectivity, utility and battery life of smartphones while being small and light enough to use comfortably is a real challenge.

All that being said, I don't disagree that AR is going to be a huge success, and a huge factor in our lives as we go on. In fact, going back to my studies in 2005 there was an EU project, AMIRE (Authoring Mixed Reality), aimed at producing tools for authoring content for Mixed Reality (Augmented + Virtual Reality). So the work has been going on for a long time, and the basic ideas have been around for decades in labs and even longer in science fiction. Now the technology is getting there and we have the first real, mass market products in smartphones. It won't stop there, obviously.

Google is doing the right thing for them in exploring AR, but we're still a long way from Google Glasses becoming a mainstream commodity. And there is no guarantee whatsoever that Google will be successful while other's won't. I think there is a great amount of uncertainty as to what form the AR will eventually take. Or, perhaps it would be better to say which forms. So, I don't think Google's competitors need to be worried, the field is wide open for everybody.

Rui Nunes

@tcb: I would think that glasses with a combination of voice control, eye tracking and a minified kinect to allow for gesture control of AR would be the way to go.

Rui Nunes

@tcb Also... on Apple becoming a Sony... if you'll go search past news, you'll see Apple was not amused when Futurama mocked them on the eyePhone :)


@Mikko, good argument about getting it to the mainstream, if it was about the first Motorola would dominate mobile, and Xerox would be the king of desktop, but as we saw through the last 40 years, its all about shipping the product people actually want to buy and use. Lets just remember what a failure Apple Newton was (and no, iPhone and iPad have no Newton DNA and are in fact closer to the NEXTcube WWW was started on) because the man-machine interface had problems (handwriting recognition), just like the windows XP/Vista/7 tablets. Great thing about iPhone was the capacitive touchscreen with multitouch, same goes for the iPad.

@Rui, the thing is voice alone present innumerable obstacles, both technical and practical, gestures are maybe even worse, not that there isn't use for both. Eye tracking and further on direct man-machine interaction on a neurological level is the killer feature for augmented reality.

And thus we come into the realm of the posthuman.

Rui Nunes

@tcb Voice on the glasses is the Google/Siri input, because you won't be typing on air, i guess, and that's were the current tech in deployment is heading. I think one of the problems of AR is physical interaction, you don't get a natural action-reaction experience by simply touching air. Physical interaction is already on second stage with mobile: first the soft keys on feature phones, now the touchscreens. With touch feedback we'll be feeling water ripples on CG water on iPads. Sony and Nintendo don't buy solely on Kinect, because they know that Kinect and physical accessories -like guns and wand controllers- are better used together. I think the guys the e-motive brain headset are still just doing one part of the neurological system by scanning the brain to control machines. Being able to inject thoughts in the brain, is a step still faraway ( Could that.. emulate physical interaction with the AR world? :) It's also interesting to note the absence of talk on projection display. I remember NTT DoCoMo videos of day light "holograms" a few years ago, I wonder whats the current state of technology right now.

Mikko Martikainen

@tcb and @Rui

Interaction(s) with the AR device will be multimodal, simply out of necessity. I'm sure you've seen the popular videos like Jeff Han and his multitouch wall, where he talks about how we really need some surface to interact with to be comfortable, hence the wall. Or this TED talk ( ) of SixthSense, which is another great concept (and, by the way, open source so anybody could implement it). I'm not really convinced that goggles/glasses are the only or even the best way to implement AR, and in fact I believe we'll move towards a combination of multiple solutions. Perhaps a combination of goggles, a projector + camera and a smartphone will be the killer, but it is too early to tell.

Another interesting rumor is Google Majel, which IMO is certain to play a key role in Google's AR development. Same for Apple and Siri. Actually, especially with regards to Apple, we should keep a very keen eye on the little things, as Apple's strategy is to build their system one piece at a time. So if we take AR as the goal, and look at how the things Apple is doing now could be used to implement an AR system, we might get some clues. It's kind of hiding things in plain sight, really. Or disguising them as something different.

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I would think that glasses with a combination of voice control, eye tracking and a minified kinect to allow for gesture control of AR would be the way to go

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