Posted tagged ‘Australian Defence Force’

The paradox of augmented reality

27 May 2013

Sydneysider Scott O’Brien is back in town after an extended stint in San Francisco. Scott is the Co-founder & CMO of Explore Engage, a digital media company that is attracting serious attention for its augmented reality eyewear.

I caught up with Scott in the harbour city and asked him the following questions…

  • What are your favourite examples of augmented reality? (0:08)
  • What are you working on at Explore Engage? (2:20)
  • How does your eyewear differ from Google Glass? (3:05)
  • Is augmented reality worth the hype? (3:54)
  • What opportunities exist for the finance sector? (5:04)
  • What opportunities exist for workplace education? (6:14)

I was impressed with the examples of augmented reality cited by Scott.

Medical education has long been the poster boy of salivatingly engaging content, and the tradition continues with this emerging technology. Daqri’s 4D Anatomy app showcases the visualisation capabilities of the medium, while the Australian Defence Force not only targets a real-world need with their Mobile Medic app, but also incorporates it into their recruitment process.

Ingress Enlightened logo

Google’s Ingress is an augmented reality MMOG that exemplifies the gamification capability of the medium. Two factions fight for control over the real world by capturing virtual “portals” that are represented by public landmarks such as statues and fountains.

The fact that Ingress was developed by Google’s internal startup, Niantic Labs, is enlightening (excuse the pun). Augmented reality is still an emerging technology in which experiments must be undertaken and failures borne. It is by learning from the results, and responding to them via adaptation, that you increase the probability of break-through success.

I am also fascinated by Google’s marketing strategy with Ingress. The game is in “closed beta” mode, which means you need an invitation to play it. Reminiscent of Studio 54, only the members of the “in” crowd have the privilege of enjoying that which is denied to others. Google deepens the mystique by seemingly neglecting to promote the product – instead relying on organic growth of the subculture.

On the subject of Google, I think Scott’s differentiation between Google Glass and Explore Engage’s Augmented Reality Eyewear is an important one. While Google Glass has augmented reality capability, it is essentially a wearable computer with which digital information is conveniently presented in front of the wearer’s eye. In contrast, the Explore Engage eyewear is specifically designed to integrate digital information with the real-world background. There is no better example of the latter concept than BMW’s Augmented Reality Glasses – which aren’t Explore Engage’s by the way, but are oh so sexy all the same.

While I’m on my definitions soapbox, I’ll take this opportunity to point the finger at Star Chart. This is a wonderful (and free) app, but its so-called “augmented reality mode” is no such thing; it does not lay its stellar information over the night sky! In contrast, Sun Seeker lays the sun’s trajectory over the real background. In other words, it augments reality.


In terms of ROI, 2.5 million downloads of Transformers 3’s Defend the Earth speaks for itself. The return on Audi’s Virtual Q3 is less obvious, but that’s because it’s less about car sales and more about engaging consumers and associating the brand with innovation. How do you evaluate that? By analysing car sales of course, after the Q3 finally lands on Aussie shores.

While the Commonwealth Bank should be applauded for their Property Guide app, which combines geolocation with big data to provide something truly useful to their prospective customers, I must say as someone in the financial services industry: the general lack of financially oriented augmented reality apps represents a typical lack of imagination in the sector. Worse still, the examples highlighted by Infosys’s whitepaper are almost exclusively home finders and ATM locators, which means they’ve merely copied each other. Yawn.

As I am concurrently in the education profession, however, I must also recognise that the potential for augmented reality remains largely untapped. Scott’s examples attest to the power of the medium in terms of visualisation, gamification and performance support – which are factors that make education in the workplace engaging and effective. So what are we waiting for?

I think the mobility of the technology also remains under exploited. For example, how about an architecture tour of your local city in which details of buildings are highlighted when you point your mobile device at them? Or even better, when you look at them through your AR-enabled glasses?

And Scott’s mention of avatars adds more fuel to the fire of possibility. I imagine learning interventions in dangerous environments (such as mining sites) in which training can be undertaken in context, minus the threat to life or limb. Unlike in a simulator or a virtual world, the training is done at the workplace.

Therein lies the paradox of augmented reality. By complementing the real world with artificiality, it makes the learning experience more authentic.

8 interesting things at CeBIT Australia 2011

1 June 2011

CeBIT AustraliaI don’t find CeBIT very interesting. I’m not really an IT geek, so for me it’s a bit of a yawn fest.

However I still like to go to the expo. Amid all the server boxes and data storage units and networking solutions and management systems, I usually find a few gems that make my attendance worthwhile. And this year was no exception.

Here are the 8 things I found most interesting…

CeBIT Australia 2011 Expo

1. Getac – These guys make “rugged” laptops and tablets that are resistant to temperature, vibration, dust and water. They remind me of Motion Computing’s Motion C5 which I saw at CeBIT a couple of years ago, but Getac’s versions even look tough.

Getac Rugged Laptop

When I quizzed the rep about the keyboard, he said that if you get mud on it, you can wash it off with a hose. Clearly these devices would be perfect for m‑learning and other computing activities in workplaces such as mines, construction sites and forests.

2. NuMaps – These guys license census data from the ABS and their DrapeBrowser software lets you overlay it on a map.

Not very exciting? Well suppose you work for a financial services company that’s introducing a retirement income product for UK expatriates. You could use DrapeBrowser to identify the suburbs in Sydney that have high concentrations of British born males who are over 65 and British born females who are over 60. Now you know where to focus your mailout campaign.

3. eWAY – These guys are PayPal competitors. Enough said.

4. Interactive whiteboards – These have been around for a while, but the one I saw at the Promethean stall looked like a huge iPad.

Promethean whiteboard

The iBoard, perhaps?

5. Emotiv – I was super keen to see a demo of this brain/computer interface, but I was a bit disappointed. The punter who was doing the training exercise couldn’t get the little box to move on the screen. The presenter assured us that others who have trained properly can indeed move the box just by thinking about it.

The implications for the gaming industry are obvious, but given you can also move a robotic car attached to the computer, the broader potential is mind boggling. They are also working on a wireless version.

6. Australian Defence Force – Unfortunately these guys were interesting for the wrong reasons. They had brochures about becoming a soldier or a sailor or even a tradie – which is fine – but CeBIT is an expo for geeks.

How about a brochure about becoming a cyber operations officer or a geomatics engineer or a cryptologic technician?

7. Chargebar – Running out of battery is no fun. A free mobile-charging kiosk with multiple attachments is a godsend.

8. An absence of scantily clad women – You might think this is a strange one coming from a red-blooded male, but those PYTs in nothing more than a bikini were a blight on previous events.

There were, however, a rather unusual number of knockouts who happened to be dressed in business attire. I’m sure it was just a coincidence.