Ina Fried

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Augmented Reality Actually Becoming One (Video)

A year ago, even proponents of augmented reality were talking more about the potential of the technology than its adoption.

These days, though, the technology is making its presence felt. Augmented reality apps are adding another layer to all kinds of real-world objects, from toys to magazines, even to Heinz Ketchup bottles that offer up recipes to anyone with a smartphone.

“It’s happening,” said Jay Wright, a senior director at Qualcomm. “We’ve hit this inflection point of adoption.”

Taco Bell has a game that can be played by pointing a phone at its meal boxes. Qualcomm is working with “Sesame Street” on an interactive playset that allows figurines of Bert and Ernie to come to life when captured by a smartphone. A museum in San Diego is using augmented reality to show how magnetism works.

“You can’t see magnetic fields,” Wright said.

Marketing remains the big driver for augmented reality. Total Immersion, another player in the space, recently launched a big campaign for Tic Tac that turns the boxes for the candy into a game, when paired with a smartphone and the companion app.

“It’s truly a national campaign, and the client is supporting the app with a multimillion dollar ad campaign,” Total Immersion CEO Bruno Uzzan said in an interview. “It shows that the market is maturing.”

Augmented reality is also useful for doing things like allowing virtual try-ons and interactive product manuals, such as this app that helps when installing a new flat-panel TV.

“For the first time, augmented reality is not being associated with (something) gimmicky, and starts being associated to return on investment,” Uzzan said.

One of the catalysts for Qualcomm’s efforts, Wright said, was when it opened its developer kit up to the iPhone.


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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus