The use of augmented reality in our daily lives is still a few years away.  The technology and business model hasn’t yet reached the point where it’s cheap enough for the masses.

The entertainment business is a different story as they’ve been using augmented reality for some time now.  My eyes were opened during the keynote speech at ISMAR09 by Mark Mine, a Walt Disney Imagineering Director.  They use AR in a variety of interesting and imaginative ways (well duh! they are Disney afterall.)

Magic sand” interactive experience using projections on top of sand to create volcanos and playing with turtles.

KimPossible activity using hand-held comm units that led kids on a secret adventure through the park.

Building sized projections of ghosts during holidays like this video of Space Mountain on Halloween.

Mark also showed us some great scenic illusions using projectors on a live scene, but unfortunately I couldn’t find a video.  What Mark showed us is how to use AR–right now–by concentrating on the user experience.  The Imagineers had over 144 different degrees in their group, but he said the key was to have an art and communications background to go with the engineering.  Keep that little factoid in mind all you wanna-be AR designers.

A couple of his best lines were, “Seeing is believing, but touching is truth,” or “It’s about connecting with the user.”  The lesson I got from it for AR developers outside of the entertainment industry is to not forget the person using your new-fangled technology.

Mark wasn’t the only keynote speaker from the entertainment industry.  Natasha Tsakos who plays Zero, a worker everyman stuck between dreams and reality, in her UP WAKE performance piece, also gave a keynote.  Similar lessons can be learned from her experience as with the Disney talk.

Disney and UP WAKE are both big budget productions, but can the little guy use augmented reality to entertain?  I don’t know much about the guy in this next video, but he’s giving it his best go.

Or if you’re looking for a company to develop a projection AR entertainment experience right now, then look no further than Globalzepp.

These days everyone is enamored of augmented reality on the smartphone, but we shouldn’t forget there are other ways of using the nascent technology in creative and innovative ways.  Projection based AR still has a lot going for it in situations where it can reach a large audience.

About the Author Thomas K. Carpenter

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