Technology Review: Augmented Reality and QR Codes

During our trip to Japan we saw a multitude of amazing and innovative technologies. I had heard of some of them prior to visiting the companies, but others were completely new to me. There were things that looked like they came right out of a science fiction movie, such as a holographic image of a girl in different outfits. The companies we visited were obviously on the cutting edge of this technology, which made me feel as though we were essentially taking a glimpse into our own, not too distant future. It did not take long for me to become giddy and excited for each new exhibit as we were led through our tours. My favorite of the new technologies we saw during these visits was augmented reality.

Augmented reality is the combination of reality and computer generated images. This can include anything from digital signs showing which way to go in an application like street view from Google or the insertion of three-dimensional figures on a magazine. We were shown the latter example and it was amazing. I had never before seen a computer-generated animation placed into a real environment so seamlessly in real time. The best part was that one could move the plane on which the animation was running around, and the models would follow right along with it without any troubles. This was possible by the placement of QR codes on the plane.

QR means quick response, which was obvious after seeing how easily it allowed for movement in the augmented reality example. QR codes were invented in Japan and are visible throughout the country. During our entire trip we would find these codes on everything. This included food packaging, tables at fast-food restaurants, and even on gigantic billboards. In America it is hard to contemplate why anyone would want to put these little codes all over it, but for the Japanese it makes perfect sense. With their highly advance cell phones, they are able to take pictures of the codes that gives them access to many different sorts of rewards.

One of the most ingenious ways of using QR codes for augmented reality, which was shown to us during our trip, was at the JR East R&D center. They had a system where they could bring down light QR coded sheets and place them in the subway, in order to see how a gate would fit in the terminal. This is awesome because it allows them to save money by seeing what types of gates will work and which ones won’t before having to hull all of the heavy supplies and equipment it takes to build them.

I personally enjoy the possibilities of augmented reality for entertainment purposes, which could involve anything from games to movies, but I believe that the economic and informational possibilities for this technology are endless. With the implication of this brilliant and inexpensive technology in to everyday life, the world and how we view it will be completely changed forever and for the better.

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~ by iamnicholashenry on June 14, 2010.

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