Thinking Tech

Make your own reality with Metaio's augmented reality software

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How would you augment your reality? Metaio aims to find out with new AR software designed for the masses.

If you’re not familiar with augmented reality (AR), the technology superimposes images and information over your view of the world. For example, if you wanted to learn more about a landmark in front of you, an AR application might allow you to look through your phone’s camera and see information about its history, dimensions, or geographic coordinates. Kind of like creating an MTV pop-up video for the real world.

Or, to take one of the better known examples, AR can be used to provide a detailed model of a product while it’s still wrapped in its packaging. Lego uses kiosks in some of its stores that let you hold a boxed Lego set up to see a virtual image of the toy inside.

Now, the software company Metaio is bringing AR to the masses. In a press release this week, Metaio announced new content-authoring software designed to be used by non-developers. According to the release, Metaio Creator “provides a desktop, drag-and-drop interface, making AR production both efficient and open to a much wider audience.” In theory this means that anyone could develop an AR application, adding data and virtual imagery to objects everywhere.

In the Metaio video above, the company shows an example where a person animates a two-dimensional image, allowing users to look at an illustrated book through a smartphone camera and see the picture of a bat brought to life. However, the possibilities for AR are literally infinite. Imagine the educational applications – modeling a fossil, or viewing a location on the globe in detail. Or the marketing applications – setting a product in three-dimensional context, or showing different color variations of an item.

So far, AR has had limited success. Reporters and technologists (like me) get all excited about the possibilities, but no one has proven the market for augmented reality beyond certain niche scenarios. Now that Metaio is making it possible for more people to experiment with the technology, that could change. Who knows? Between Metaio and Google – with its super-cool “Project Glass” AR vision ware – we could soon be looking at augmented reality through a whole new lens.

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Mari Silbey

Contributing Editor

Mari Silbey is an independent tech writer based in Washington, D.C. With a background in cable and telecom, she's a contributor to several trade publications, and part of the GigaOM analyst network. She also writes for the long-running digital media blog Zatz Not Funny, and has written for both corporate and association clients focused on broadband networks, mobile apps, and video delivery. She's a graduate of Duke University. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure