Smartphones: Combining the Real-World with the Digital World

Exploring augmented reality and how it’s changing the way the world uses mobile technology.

By on October 1, 2013

In the movie "Terminator,” Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character was able to get a digital briefing on every real-life person or object he set his eyes on. While human beings obviously don’t have the ability to do this naturally, using augmented reality on a smartphone and tablet allows them to interact with the real-world in a way they never could before.

There’s a variety of different ways one could describe augmented reality. Trak Lord, marketing and media relations manager for metaio, Inc., describes it as “the ability to insert digital information into the real world.”

This technology was around long before Schwarzenegger was using it in cinema. In 1957, a man named Morton Helig began building a machine called the Sensorama. It was designed to create a 3-D cinematic experience in the front and sides of the user’s visuals. While the concept was intriguing, it never took off due to costs and production difficulties. There simply wasn’t enough hardware and data capacity to make this technology openly accessible. Augmented reality relies strongly on video display and database technologies that require a significant amount of bandwidth. Increased speeds, improved response times and increased capacity from today’s 4G LTE technology have put augmented reality right where it needs to be. 

There’s a variety of mobile apps that incorporate augmented reality. Audi’s A3 eKurzinfo app allows users to get information on specific car parts using their mobile device. Patrons can hold their smartphones up to a specific part and get immediate maintenance data on it. Mobile users can even preview furniture taken from a catalogue into their actual homes with IKEA’s UDecore app. There’s also the Monocle app, which enables consumers to find local restaurants and shops using their mobile devices. They can simply hold their phones up to specific buildings and get briefings on what’s exactly in the structure.

With the increase of cutting-edge devices and network expansions, there’s no limit to the possibilities.