There are plenty of practical applications for AR, not to mention entertaining ones, and Google's objective is to uncover them all.
Augmented reality's proliferation is slowly picking up pace. But with the way Google had it exhibited at Google I/O, you would have thought it was already as ubiquitous and commonly referred as other technologies we've come to rely on.
It's not there yet, but Google would certainly like it to be. Here are four examples of where the company sees augmented reality in the real world, and where it thinks it application could truly classify it as a utility.
Realtors, contractors, or anyone looking to undergo a massive remodel, you might find the Tango Constructor app to be right up your alley. It's an experimental development tool made to show off how Tango-enabled devices can capture three-dimensional models of different surroundings. The models can then be exported as mesh files and used in other apps, like Unity.
You can map out your surroundings with Tango Constructor.
During the demonstration, I got to see the Asus ZenFone AR put to use with its rear-facing dual cameras and depth sensor. All it takes to map an area is a simple point and shoot, and the app does the rest of hard work stitching the image together. It works akin to capturing a Photosphere in real time, and it's just as quick at rendering the scene.
When you're finished mapping your surroundings, you can pop the Tango phone into a virtual reality viewer like Cardboard to look around. If you happen to have a Tango-enabled device, you can try it out for yourself right now.
Expeditions in the classroom
Google's always been particularly proactive at showing its technology's worthiness, especially with regards to how it can be utilized in classrooms. At I/O, it showed off AR's usefulness with regards to the "virtual field trip," essentially enabling an entire class of students to see and experience the same content with merely a Tango-enabled smartphone and a selfie stick.
Classrooms can go on virtual field trips with Expeditions AR.
Expeditions require one person to broadcast and control the content — in the classroom's case, this would be the teacher — while the other linked devices display what's going on. And the best part is that you can move around completely while in the expedition. In the demo I tried at I/O, I looked inside a Category 5 hurricane forming over the Atlantic Ocean, and then crouched down to take a peek at Antarctica.
I do not enjoy driving to the mall to try on new clothing, which is why I tend to do most of my shopping online. But shopping for clothing can be hard, and oftentimes I find that I'm returning more stuff than I'm buying simply because I didn't know what the fit was like.
DressingRoom by GAP lets you virtually check out that white shirt before you buy it.
The DressingRoom by GAP app aims to help solve this conundrum by bringing the dressing room into your home with augmented reality. It's a neat concept, and extremely easy to use. All you have to do is drag the item you're interested in to a flat surface, and then step back to check out the full mannequin. You can walk around it to see its fit and even adjust the size of the mannequin if you like, or you can add additional items to compare looks.
I like the concept of being able to effectively shop from the comfort of your living room, but this particular execution doesn't seem like something I'd use to shop online. It certainly helps to visualize the fit of a pair of jeans, but I'm hoping to see this particular technology evolve so that it's a virtual me trying on the clothing and not some pre-programmed mannequin.
Sadly, this isn't a demonstration that you can download and try for yourself, but it was too cute not to share. If you're already familiar with Spotlight Stories — essentially, animated shorts made to be viewed in VR — then you might enjoy the concept behind Welcome to Oz, which allows you to interact with the various characters from The Wizard of Oz.
Pose for a picture with an augmented reality character!
I had a quick look at the feature and it's delightful. All you have to do is point the smartphone towards whatever is in your environment to see the characters. The rendering itself is impressive and made even more realistic with the detailed shadows and textures added to make the characters stand out as if they're actually part of the scene. There's also a mode that lets you pose for a picture with several of the featured characters.