Magazine article American Libraries

Your Reality, Augmented: Location-Aware Mobile Technologies

Magazine article American Libraries

Your Reality, Augmented: Location-Aware Mobile Technologies

Article excerpt

Last time, I discussed QR codes and how they can link you to content that provides further information about an object. But what if you didn't have to put barcodes all over everything you wanted people to scan? What if all it took to get that content was to walk up to an item or location holding your phone? What if you could see additional data through your phone's video camera about what you're looking at in real life, or see your location on a map in relation to restaurants, buildings, or even a specific bookshelf? It sounds futuristic, but it's actually something available right now to many smartphone users.

Location-aware applications for mobile devices use GPS to find the owner's current location and then display it in relation to specific objects, people, stores, and more on a map. These applications can help you do things like find nearby restaurants and see reviews or view the property values in a neighborhood. Location - based games like Foursquare offer users special badges for "checking in" at locations, where they can write a review and read the reviews of previous visitors.

Libraries are just beginning to take advantage of the GPS functionality found in most mobile devices. WolfWalk is a location-aware mobile site and iPhone application that lets users explore historic photos of North Carolina State University in Raleigh. Users can see their location on a map in relation to buildings with geotagged historic images of the location. This allows students to see how the specific place where they're standing has changed overtime, connecting them to the history of their campus. Oregon State University in Corvallis offers a similar location-aware historic walking tour of campus called BeaverTracks.

Layers of meaning

Augmented reality takes this a step further by superimposing content (data, 3D images, photographs, etc.) over what you're looking at. Unlike virtual reality, which displays a virtual environment, you see the real world with augmented reality--but with computer - generated content layered on top. …

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