Integrating telematics and augmented reality

Integrating telematics and augmented reality

In May, Sony released a live-demo video of SmartAR, its new augmented reality (AR) technology, in which a 3-D image of a cute purple creature moved about a room.

A Sony representative created a series of vivid images from the small mobile SmartAR device—small spheres hopped naturally from a coffee cup off a table and virtual menus filled the air. The demonstration closed with an open sky full of virtual greenery and chirping birds.All this happened in a seamless and visually impressive way.

The potential for gaming systems is immediately apparent, but the entire smartphone market could also be dramatically impacted by augmented reality, in which information and virtual objects are integrated with physical space. The potential for telematics and human-machine interfaces (HMIs) could also be profound.

With ever more information becoming available to drivers, creating HMI technology that can safely enrich the in-car telematics experience is a necessity. Potential telematics applications include everything from windscreen data displays to enhanced location-based features delivered via tablets or smartphones.

Potential telematics applications

Academics and industry professionals have long seen the potential of AR. Since the late 1990s, most attention has focused on how AR could create a more dynamic player experience for the growing market of computer and console gaming.

“Things really took off when mobiles started to increase in power about four years ago,” says Georgia Tech professor and augmented reality specialist Blair MacIntyre, director of the Augmented Environments Lab.

Now, the market is increasingly focused on how mobile devices will integrate with AR to develop new ways for users to interact with Web-based information and actual physical places.

Sony has been experimenting with AR technology since the mid-1990s. The firm’s recent video demo looks great, of course, but the real question is how devices like Sony’s will work in the real world. Some are skeptical.

Will AR be a short-term game-changer? Not according to Thomas Husson, an analyst for the consumer-product strategy organization Forrester. Mobile AR currently caters to a niche audience, Husson argues, and there is lots of room for improvement in the displays.

The real potential may be realized in the longer term, Husson says, specifically as tablets and smartphones become more commonplace and more integrated into in-car telematics systems. 

Mobile AR, Husson wrote in a blog post last year, can become “the new remote control of our personal daily lives.”

Georgia Tech’s MacIntyre imagines head-worn displays in the medical, military, and maintenance industries. But social media and location-based services could also be enhanced through AR.

Imagine, for example, drivers searching for nearby tourist sites, which could be displayed on the car windshield or on a tablet/smartphone with a variety of AR-enabled enhancements. 

Telematics-based infotainment, traffic updates and navigation could also be made more interactive and attractive through the smart use of AR. It may still be early days for mobile AR, but promising telematics applications are already emerging.


John Hendel is a regular contributor to TU.

For all the latest telematics trends, join the sector’s thought leaders at Telematics Munich 2011 on November 9-10 in Munich.

For exclusive telematics business analysis and insight, check out TU’s In-Vehicle Smartphone Integration Report and Smart Vehicle Technology: The Future of Insurance Telematics.

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