Metaio’s Augmented City Demo May Answer The Question Of AR’s Utility

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Augmented Reality veterans Metaio are announcing some more details about their upcoming insideAR conference scheduled to take place in Munich, Germany on September 26 – 27. While the speaker list for the event has been available since July, the greater theme for the conference is being updated via press release today. That theme is: “From a Vision to a Roadmap”.

To help illustrate this thematic announcement, Metaio have release a video that shows a small scale demo of their vision for the “Augmented City”. This demo was created by Metaio and the Media Processing Division of ARM—makers of the Mali family of GPUs essential to the demonstrated rendering ability of Metaio’s software.

The demo is cool and illustrates their vision well, but it’s important to note that, strategically, the focus of the insideAR event also seems to be tied to revealing their roadmap for reaching this vision. That information will be shared publicly and also in more detail with select business partners during the second (and private) day of the insideAR conference.

For if ever a technology needed a roadmap for practicality, it is Augmented Reality. I mean, I am one of the believers, but in many a conversation about AR with colleagues and clients alike, the dialogue often strays to “Yeah, but how is that going to be realistically implemented” or “how do we get from A to B”. These are legitimate questions.

So the simple format of sharing the vision but also sharing the practical, tactical and technological steps to reach the vision seems like a clean and clever way to break the content up and attempt to deliver actionable results. I plan to be in attendance and will let you know if the concept lives up to the hype.

But back to the Augmented City demo…
It looks cool but I admit at first I thought it might be a bit gimmicky. I mean, what is this tiny city? What is it trying to show?

In this video, I think Metaio CTO Peter Meier does a good job of explaining the roll of hardware and software to create best-of-breed AR experiences and also describing how Metaio’s optical recognition (for which they are field leaders) will enable experiences.

So after watching in its entirety, I began to see where they are headed with both the vision and the technology. Rather than viewing it as an animation or a cartoon, I imagined some of the examples within it at normal scale in a real city and myself in that city and subject to the meta information at hand. I began to imagine some real world scenarios of my own:

  • What if I worked at an architecture firm and the virtual facade of our building could be changed to the firm’s best known designs?
  • What if I worked at an ad agency where client reels could be displayed on the outside walls of the office building?
  • What if a new breed of car advertisements were actually driving on the road (that one’s probably a legal or compliance nightmare but cool nonetheless).

There are many possibilities if the practical hurdles can be jumped or removed. Let’s hope that practical approaches can be found for implementing these “natural” AR experiences without overwhelming users.

That seems to be the one of the goals of Metaio’s approach with the insideAR format. It’s a good idea to try to show vision and action and that seems more realistic than the typical “whizz-bang-look-how-cool-my-tech-is” approach to gain attention for marketing reasons. My fingers are crossed.