Use of augmented reality technology expands

It’s like magic.

That’s how Maarten Lens-FitzGerald, co-founder of Amsterdam-based firm Layar, describes augmented reality.

Augmented reality is a view of the real world, altered by computer-generated sensory input including sounds, graphics, video or other enhancements. And it’s growing in popularity. 

“It’s really, really cool to see this going forward,” Lens-Fitzgerald said. “If it’s not part of our lives, it will be part of our kids’ lives.” 

In Focus | Unlike video games, augmented reality apps are not rated, allowing children to be exposed to violent apps. Monday at 6 p.m.

Google released a limited number of its wearable computers, Glass, last year. The Glass’ head-mounted display includes some augmented reality features.

Researchers at Virginia Tech are developing an augmented reality  app designed for children visiting historic sites. Students will have the ability to see a site as it looked years ago, just by turning on the app on their smartphone or tablet.

The app is scheduled to be piloted in a local school next year, said Doug Bowman, a professor of computer science and director of Virginia Tech’s Center for Human-Computer Interaction.

The app will allow students to pull up an image of a historic site on a mobile device and see an overlay of what it once looked like, along with facts about the site and other details. Virginia Tech researchers are working with the Christiansburg Institute, a former African-American school that opened in Christiansburg, Va. after the Civil War, to test the app.

“We want students to learn how to think like a historian,” Bowman said.

Armand Bastien, CEO of Virtual Realities, Ltd., said he started selling augmented reality products about seven years ago. He continues to develop new augmented reality  hardware and software.

Right now, his products include head-mounted displays that use a concept similar to Google Glass.

Lens-Fitzgerald founded his business in 2009, around the time Android smartphones started to grow in popularity.

Layar was one of the first augmented reality browsers to hit the market, according to the company, which has apps for the iPhone and Android operating systems.

Lens-Fitzgerald said the app has been downloaded more than 38 million times.

In 2012, he introduced the Layar Creator, an interactive print tool that’s used by more than 80,000 publishers and editors, including Seventeen and Redbook.

Print’s not going anywhere, Lens-Fitzgerald said. What consumers want is an interactive experience, and that’s what AR provides. Layar’s software, for example, allows videos to play on top of advertising in magazines or catalogs.

“It really comes close to the future we were once reading about,” Lens-Fitzgerald said.

Bastien said the biggest benefit to augmented reality is “an immediate, real-time, digital overlay of information.” He predicted augmented reality will be widely used within a decade.

“I would venture to say augmented reality will be most everywhere worldwide. From interactive AR advertising, architecture, medical, educational and gaming. Simple applications to the most complex,” he said. 

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