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Augmented reality is... virtually here

A member of ARNY (Augmented Reality New York) tries on a prototype of Meta glasses, which project computer graphics on to the real world.

Ori Ingbar is about to show me something cool. He points his iPhone camera at a bottle of Pepsi Maxx. The phone sings, “Pi-pe-pe-pep Pepsi Maxx!” On camera, the Pepsi label turns into a pulsating beatbox.

“Now the whole idea is that you can actually use your own voice, your own tracks,” Ingbar explains. He makes noises with his mouth -- "Doom, cheesh! Doom, cheesh!" -- and the app records his voice and sets it to a beat. He can even scratch the bottle's label, like a turntable.

Ingbar’s company, Ogmento, developed this app for a Pepsi campaign in Israel. Advertisers like augmented reality because it makes us look at their product longer. But it can also be used to help professionals in all sorts of industries, from medicine to construction.

Imagine a building contractor pointing his iPad at a wall and instantly seeing electrical wires, pipes, and so on. So when you’re looking for problems in a building or trying to fix something, you’d be able to see through the walls,” says Ingbar.

This is the kind of thing that excites developers at Augmented Reality New York. "ARNY" is the largest monthly meet-up of its kind in the U.S. Dima Kislovskiy is a long-time member who is developing a device for car windshields. A virtual green light appears to hover above the road, out in front of your car. When it turns left, you should too.

“You can therefore see where the road is going,” Kislovskiy explains, “past the next turn, past the next hill, beyond those next trees.

But the big event was a demonstration of a device called Meta, developed by Meron Gribetz. He asks volunteers to wear a pair of bulky black glasses. When they look through the glasses, a digital bubble appears on each fingertip. 

As Gribetz puts it, “The controllers for this device are the most natural controllers for manipulating your environment, your hands and fingers and arms."

Gribetz says that Meta will be able to project computer graphics on to the real world. That means you can type on a virtual keyboard, or swipe floating screens like in the movie "Minority Report."

He promises that Meta will someday look like a pair of Ray Bans... not a View Master from the ‘70s.  But he doubts that people will go the next step and wear augmented contact lenses.

“If you take the population in New York City, there’s a huge fraction of people who want to use computers but have never put that kind of invasive device in their eye,” he says.

Someday we may look back on that prediction -- through our virtual contact lenses -- and laugh.

About the author

Eric Molinsky is an independent radio reporter.
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