Keep your eyes open for augmented reality

Augmented reality is rapidly becoming something to look out for.

Augmented reality (AR) is used to describe merging a real-time view of the real world with elements of virtual reality to create a mixed, or augmented, view of reality.

At its simplest, think of it as the yellow first-down marker lines on telecasts of American football games.

As it gets a little more complex, think of the new Digital Cosmetic Mirrors, made by Fujitsu for cosmetic giant Shiseido and now being piloted in Tokyo malls, according to Engadget.

The Digital Cosmetic Mirror kiosks apply virtual makeup in different shades and colors to a live video feed of a customer's face, along with making product recommendations based on a scan of the face.

AR is still a nascent tech, but by all appearances it's starting to gain steam and grow up fast.

At the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona today, AR software and solutions provider metaio showed off its Unifeyer Mobile AR SDK, an Android demo done in cooperation with Sony Ericsson. According to metaio, the Unifeyer Mobile SDK "is the world's first and only software development kit for creating mobile augmented reality (AR) applications. The professional toolbox is supporting all major mobile platforms and features the latest image recognition technologies, 3D rendering for animations with real time interaction and optimized components for mobile hardware. With the Unifeyer Mobile SDK software it is possible to create fascinating marketing experiences, intuitive information design, mobile augmented reality games or innovative retail solutions."

Sounds good anyway.

(Mashable also has this piece on "10 Amazing Augmented Reality iPhone Apps" that's worth taking in. And when Esquire magazine has its own "Augmented Reality Issue," AR is certainly getting closer to the mainstream of things in the United States.)

Munich-based metaio also was involved in rolling out Lego's AR kiosk that shows customers what's inside a box they hold up to its camera by superimposing an image of the completed Lego toy on top of the box being held up.

According to, there's even a company making AR tattoos — a plain box on a person's arm shows a 3D dragon when viewed through the right camera.

Looks like the next kiosk and digital signage arms race is about to begin, as this new tech starts infiltrating shopping malls and retailers around the country. And given the advances coming in 3D-without-glasses and holographic projection, how long before we have augmented 3D reality being broadcast out into — or onto — the very air in front of us as we make our way down the street or through the mall?

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