Sunday, January 5, 2014

#blog12daysxmas Post 12 #anz23mthings Thing 11 Augmented Reality

Playing with Augment
This Thing provided a good introduction to augmented  reality (AR) and its potential. AR is the use of technology to overlay digital information on an image of something being viewed through a device (eg. through a smartphone camera). This might be to play games, to check out whether furniture might be a good fit in your room (or library), to translate signs and menus from other languages or to show current and historical uses of a place.  We saw examples of some of this used to good effect in the earlier Thing about local history. A number of museums and galleries also have good apps that make use of the technology.

The following video by Dennis Dovgal gives a good overview of the topic:

Here, Matt Gonzalez discusses his five favourite augmented reality apps, Word Lens,  Dark Knight, Augment, ARZombies, and Starguide.

I downloaded the Augment app  and played around with adding some of the existing models into my environment. I decorated the television with pumpkins, added an Eiffel Tower to my desk, imported another cat, and provided my lap with a tray of coffee. You can see some of the illustrations at the head of this post.  I was just playing around but I can see how this could be really useful in library design to get a feel for particular furniture for example. I think it would also be good for creating marketing tools and promo material.

The other apps that I was interested in were the real time translators, Word Lens and Babel Shot. I was wondering about potential use for library services to those whose first language is not English. Word Lens was a bit disappointing.  It said it was a free app, but the reality is that the core operating app is free but you then need to pay $5.49 for each language before you start. It can be used offline so that's a great help if you are somewhere without wifi.  However, whilst the languages offered may be of potential to people travelling in some parts of Europe, I didn't find it of much potential for any of the main community groups in Melbourne.  The languages offered were German, English, Spanish, French, Italian and Portuguese.  But it is certainly worth a mention (as is Babelshot) if you are running sessions for the community on travel type mobile tools.

Babelshot screenshots using Greek

So I moved on to Babelshot which operates in a similar way. It costs $5.49 up front and offers a huge array of languages within the app.  I set my language to Greek and played around with it a bit. There are basically two ways it works.  You can type something in and it will translate.  Or you can take a photo which it scans and translates.  I found with the couple of simple words and sentences I typed in that Babelshot was accurate in its translation.  The first scan I did was of a record cover on Spotify and it just couldn't identify the words at all.  And in all fairness there is a warning that it works best with clear simple typeface.  I then scanned a bit of a poem by Dimitri Tsaloumas and whilst the scan was ok and recognized as Greek the translation was less than desirable.  With my bad Greek, I was able to do a better translation.  You can see an example of a sentence I typed in as well as the Tsaloumas quote in the image above. So I think this may still be a work in progress and a matter of playing and potential rather than of current use.  However, when I next go travelling I shall be very happy to have these apps and hope that they provide some practical use.

In summary from this very cursory review, in terms of libraries, I can see Augmented Reality being currently of use for planning of library buildings, promo material, and local history tours and displays. With the language apps, I do think there is potential but maybe we are just not there yet.  I also recognize that I really only looked at a couple of the possible uses that interested me and am sure that there is much more out there for libraries to explore.

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