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The near Future of Augmented Reality – III

Use of AR to reach the gate at a large airport. Image credit: Blippar

3. AR for indoor navigation

Getting around in large department stores, airports, hospitals … may be confusing: I still remember some 40 years ago getting out of the metro in Tokyo at one station and discovering that I was actually inside a multi-story mall with all signs in Kanji. Finding the exit to the street took me over half a hour (at that time basically nobody spoke English in Japan and I still don’t speak Japanese today…).

AR is changing all of this. A few airports, like Gatwick, are helping people navigate the huge space with an app leveraging on AR. In case of Gatwick the positioning is obtained through 2,000 beacons that provide exact coordinates to the app. In other cases, thanks to the increasing capabilities of image recognition, the smartphone cameras provides the information needed by the app to localise the smartphone and overlay the information on its screen using AR.

Blippar is actually doing this. They use blueprint, photos and 3D models of buildings to identify a specific location and direction and have been using their system to provide AR navigation in over 300 cities. They are now leveraging on that to provide indoor navigation.
Actually, it is not so easy. Think of an office building. Many corridors may look alike, and there may be no way to distinguish at what floor you are just by looking at the image captured by your smartphone camera. The presence of beacons would be required but, on the other hand beacon have a cost, deploying them is also a cost and powering them with a battery (in many places it would be inconvenient to connect to the mains) is an additional cost (both in battery and in replacing them).

ARKit and ARCore SDKs are addressing these issues and provide app developers various ways of understanding the position of the smartphone and its orientation.

To appreciate the relevance of this sector notice that the global indoor positioning market is estimated in 41 billion $ in 2022 and AR is going to play a significant role.

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the Industry Advisory Board within the Future Directions Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.

One comment

  1. Dear Roberto,

    agreed that AR will become soon a standard for navigation. Also as Google is in the process to roll out this option for its Google Maps. It is only a matter of time, until this will get connected to the Translator.