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Innovation Nation – An Augmented Reality Check

‎12-06-2013 09:48 AM - edited ‎09-30-2015 07:00 AM

By:  Joshua Verville, Senior Strategist, Hewlett Packard Company


About this blog series

HP’s Innovation Nation is a blog series highlighting new and innovative solutions in the U.S. Public Sector.  While working in government, I came across new technologies and ideas every day that could be used to better support government and the people it serves.  This blog series is about sharing those new technologies, ideas, and processes to support an “innovation nation.”  


connected human head.jpgAugmented Reality (AR) has been a trending topic in technology lately.  Gartner defines augmented reality as, “the real-time use of information in the form of text, graphics, audio and other virtual enhancements integrated with real-world objects.”  Essentially it’s the blending of the real or physical world with the virtual world allowing user perception of the environment to be enhanced or improved.   A science fiction example of augmented reality is Iron Man; Tony Stark’s vision is enhanced by data through is helmet’s visor.  He gets data on his speed, potential targets, incoming phone calls, and GPS positions, enhancing his ability to interact with the real world (and defeat the bad guys). 


However augmented reality is not the stuff of fiction.  In fact, augmented reality has been around since 1968, when computer science pioneer Ivan Sutherland created the first head-mounted augmented reality device, while at Harvard University.  It was a bit clunky then, but now augmented reality is all around us in the form of TV’s, smart phones, tablets and so on.


A real world example of augmented reality is the National Football League (in America).   Since 1998 the NFL has used augmented reality when televising games.  We know it as the yellow first down line on our TVs. It is a virtual line imposed on the real or physical football field for the viewer.  It allows us to follow the game a little easier and frankly I am not sure how I was ever able to watch American football before that little yellow line appeared.  


We have seen an increased use of AR lately in the commercial sector for marketing and entertainment, from greetings cards to products like Oreo Cookies.  Augmented reality is changing the way the consumer interacts with products.  It integrates with branding quite easily by leveraging existing images. It doesn’t take up additional space with QR codes, and in many cases augmented reality apps can be integrated into an existing mobile device or application as new functionality.  You simply view the image or object with your smart phone, PC Camera, or tablet device and the real world images you are viewing unlock new information and videos. 


There has also been a lot of attention about Google Glass, eyewear that is connected to the internet which allows the user to see directions, record video, see who is calling, display the weather, and many other features that augment the wearer’s world.  Several automotive makers have been developing car windshields that allow the driver to receive information like directions, phone calls, and warnings that keep their eyes always on the windshield.  So with all this augmented reality around us, it got me thinking about how government could use augmented reality.  These were a few ideas:


  • Public Service Announcements:  Imagine being able to get public service announcements by viewing signs, pictures, or select locations providing helpful and real time alerts, warnings and instructions. Imagine using your phone to view the amber alert symbol and a picture of the missing child.
  • Education: Using augmented reality to engage our students and make curriculum in the classroom come alive with information, videos and imbedded links to photos, art, or key documents viewed through your phone or tablet.
  • Transportation:  Live traffic updates, construction, and weather reports based on location or key points from your phone or your car’s windshield, similar to what you have today on GPS devices. 
  • Public Safety:  Augmented ID for police through eyewear to verify identities and providing background information about a person (perhaps a bit Orwellian?).      
  • Fire Safety:  Fire fighters could have real time schematics, floor plans, temperature readings and other vital information to safely navigate a burning building through a protective visor.
  • Parks and Forests:  Landmarks and natural sites could come to life with audio or video simply by viewing them with a smart phone, tablet, or with smart internet connected eyewear.    


The promise augmented reality offers is not only a new way of interacting with our real environment, but a more efficient, safer, and better informed reality for citizens. How would you like to use augmented reality in the public sector? Are you excited by the technology? Please take a moment to share your thoughts and vision in the comments section. 


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About the Author


Joshua Verville - cropped.jpgJoshua Verville, Senior Strategist, Hewlett Packard Company

Joshua is a Senior Strategist with Hewlett Packard’s US Public Sector State, Local and Education Division and has over a decade of experience in front line and senior leadership positions in state government and non-profit organizations.

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on ‎12-06-2013 12:51 PM

Nice post Josh.  How about AR in a court setting?  Perhaps the ability to see testimony or view exhibits in an augmented manner.

on ‎12-12-2013 08:02 AM

Wonderful idea John!  I was thinking evidence could have data, information, or video embedded so jurors, counsel and other officers of the courts could see the chain of custody, when it was collected, a description, and crime scene evidence related to an object.  Crime scene photos would be another great example for providing an enhanced view of the crime scene. 

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