Mobile augmented reality is a rapidly emerging technology that allows a camera view of the real world to be augmented by overlaying it with information from the virtual. There are lots of apps that let you consume AR, but creating AR can still be pretty technical. The new Aurasma app lets you create some simple AR-type stuff by linking media to images using only your phone. Images linked in this way are then automatically recognised by the app and the content displayed. This post is a simple How To based on a play over the weekend.

1. You’ll first need to download the Aurasma app (lite version is free). It is currently iPhone only, but the developers say it will be ported to other devices.

2. Open the app. You’ll be asked to sign up for an account on first run.

3. Take a photo of your target image from within the app. Use pinch and drag gestures to position the onscreen handles around the image you want to select.

4. Associate the target image with your media. This can be any image or video on your phone (you can’t link to stuff on the web…yet)

Your media will be uploaded to Aurasma. The app indicates that some kind of compression/optimisation takes place (for video), but the upload is pretty quick.

5. Position your media where you want to it be displayed or played back, resizing it as appropriate.

That’s it. Now you simply hold your phone over the image and when it is recognised by the app, the media is shown.

I had a quick go with adding a video to one of our printed web2practice guides. This plays back the video accompanying the printed guide when you  scan the image with the app. We currently use QR codes for this, but image recognition could be a nice supplement.

(Apologies for the shaky hand and poor focus. That was more me than the app – it was early and the day after Eurovision ;-))

I did this as a quick proof of concept of this specific use case of linking printed instructional material to related media. The app makes this pretty easy and for the user, the image recognition and playback in context is pretty slick. However, it could do with more sharing options (coming soon) to get beyond the rather disappointingly Ad focussed content currently on offer from the limited range of selected providers. I scanned a Kelloggs logo to see an animated chicken :-|

To see where this kind of technology could take us though, the New York Times piece ‘Augmented Reality Comes Closer to Reality‘ has a great example of augmenting a newspaper with relevant videos.

For a more in-depth analysis of tools for mobile AR, you might want to check out the TechWatch report Augmented Reality for Smartphones.

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