Augmented reality – could tagging the world be your next career?

Tagged mountainsThe world is a great, untagged frontier. Augmented reality (AR) is about to change all of that – or, it’s sure going to try.

Tagging the real world is a mind-boggling task but, as the technological barriers fall and software pioneers push the boundaries of AR applications, augmented reality is creating new opportunities for clients and content creators alike.

Digital communicators, are you up to the task?

What is augmented reality?

The definition is being argued out as the tech evolves and blurs with virtual reality environments. But Collins dictionary defines AR as “an artificial environment created through the combination of real-world and computer-generated data”.


Wikipedia’s augmented reality definition expands on this with: “A live, direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented (or supplemented) by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data.”

Essentially what we’re talking about here is tapping into a digitally enhanced view of the real world. As opposed to virtual reality – where everything is virtual; remember Second Life? – AR embeds layers of digital information on top of the real world around us using image markers or location data.

But even this definition may shift as the impossible becomes possible and levels of immersion change.

Augmented reality apps and examples

It’s probably a helluva lot easier to visualise augmented reality when you look at what it can do. Some examples…

Just think of going to a National Park and being able to hold your smartphone or tablet up and scan to see metadata to learn about the history, the scientific names, all of the pertinent information about the flora, fauna and natural structures around you. Add context, human history and developments – anything tagged about the world around you.

Stuck in a new town and wondering where to get dinner? Scan the view from your hotel window and let nearby restaurants pop up on screen with their offerings.

Imagine being able to turn on or off alerts about specials and promotions in your favourite shops, and have the info pop up for you when you’re in the area? (Maybe this isn’t the biggest enticement.) Try-before-you-buy apps are a big lure though especially for visualising, for example, if that new sofa will look good in your living room.

Let’s go deeper than retail though. How interesting would it be to embed hidden content about a person’s life via a memorial marker on a gravestone? It’s already happening.

Woman wearing Google GlassAnd, of course, now we are entering the wearable tech era. Pop on a digital eyewear gadget, such as Google Glass, and have personalised information beamed into your line of vision via apps, play AR games with the environment in front of you, translate foreign language signs, log your exercise regime, or record what you are seeing and send to your social channels.

These are just a few examples of augmented reality hardware and software. The applications are coming thick and fast as developers play with the options driven by user wants and needs. After the Internet, the great, wide, physical world is the next big space to commence metadata tagging and ontologies and taxonomies. It’s a big project but it’s already begun.

Jobs in augmented reality

QR code conference badgeSo let’s bring this back to digital communication jobs and recruitment for a minute. The digital content scout in me is posing this question: Who is going to create and organise all of that tagging? Who is going to strategise the potential communications applications for a brand? What specialisms are there to be had? What skills do you need?

We’ve already started to delve into this question in more depth – interviewing an augmented reality developer and rounding up some of the news from the 2014 Augmented World Expo.

We want to take you with us into the world of metadata, taxonomy and ontology. At Firehead, we believe this is the Next Big Thing. As I said at the beginning of this post: the world is wide open for tagging and organising in a digital sense. And we plan to help our clients make that happen.

So if you’re currently working in this area, we’d love to hear from you – either as a potential jobs candidate – register your details here – or as a metadata professional or AR specialist to feature in a potential Q&A for the Firehead blog. Get in touch!

Images: (CC) Nick Ludlam, Antjeverena, Max Braun, Paul Wilkinson

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