Tuesday, March 22, 2011

HANDHELD LIBRARIAN II: Augmented Reality 101 for Libraries

Presented by Sarah Houghton-Jan and Nate Hill

Augmented reality is like the robot's vision in the Terminator movies or like the future of Minority Report. You point an AR-enabled device at something in reality, and obtain digital information about it. AR requires GPS, a camera and an accelerometer (which tells if you are pointing up or down). iPads and tablets can use Augmented Reality applications, but smart phones are the most common devices.

Some Augmented Reality apps:

Layar is currently the most popular app. Libraries can make their own apps within Layar. It includes such things as a Beatles tour of Liverpool.

Wikitude connects real world locations to Wikipedia--it gives you historical facts about an area and points to potential areas of interest in the background.

Google Goggles lets you scan books, CD covers, artwork etc. --you can look at an object online or even buy it.

Monocle lets you find local bars and restaurants when you shake your phone 3 times.

Houghton-Jan and Hill decided to create a local history walking tour of San Jose with Layar. They created it as a web app because they couldn't find an iOS or Android developer to help them. The tour itinerary was created by special collections librarians. I especially like the links to old photographs of the locations.

Their tips for Augmented Reality apps:

  • Make sure there's documentation so someone else can come in --they used regular html/css code for more sustainability.
  • Use low-resolution photos so they load fast.
  • You can do almost all the same things in a browser than an app, and it's also cross-platform.
  • It helps to have a couple of devices with different OS so you can see what they look like on different operating systems and test them.
  • You can do down to a couple of meters, but GPS can't do smaller than that yet--you can't do each floor of a building.

Possibilities for the future of Augmented Reality:

Augmented reality assumes being always connected to the Internet. A lot of people still aren't, so it could be a digital divide issue. As you can imagine, their could be privacy issues, so librarians need to provide patrons with information so they can decide what information to share.

Slides are available here and the archived webinar is here (requires latest version of Flash).

--Andrea @Central

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