Augmented reality has come along way in the last few years, and while it still has a long way to go, we are starting to see it enter the mainstream discourse.
In two weeks, tens of thousands of people will fill the streets of Toronto for the seventh annual Luminato Festival to see beautiful works of art, hear great music, and enjoy the sights of a world-class city. They'll also make history by participating in a first-of-its-kind augmented reality exhibition.
After downloading an app for the event, attendees can point their phones at different places around David Pecaut Square to see a "virtual gallery" not visible to the human eye. Augmented reality works by displaying layers of computer-generated information on top of a view of the physical world. In this case, as they point their phones at different places around the square, they can see works of art on their screens that they can interact with, share, and discuss with others. As people explore the virtual art pieces, a heat-map will be created displaying where they are and what they are looking at.
When the event is over and people are done using the app, what they will leave behind is an entirely new type of digital art: a giant, crowdsourced version of the iconic Lancôme rose spanning the length of an entire city square. It will be an enormous, virtual mural of sorts that each person has individually contributed to, just by participating. In other words, it will be the world's first "human heat-map logo."
This will all be made possible by the groundbreaking work of a San Francisco-based, 3-year-old startup by the name of CrowdOptic.
Led by serial-entrepreneur Jon Fisher, the company has created a technology that is able to take the GPS, accelerometer, and compass data from multiple phones to see what people are focusing on. Instead of just recording a phone's location, CrowdOptic is able to compare the information from different phones with one another. The company can tell where different people in a situation are pointing their devices and so measure what they are paying attention to.