Augmented reality & libraries

A screenshot of across air, an augmented reality app for iPhone and iPod Touch. This screen is showing nearby foursquare venues.

Augmented reality is a computerized layer that can give you more information about objects in real life.  Libraries are beginning to explore some of its uses.

Possibilities:
Orientation.
Get different pieces of information, depending on your location.   Find out if printers or copiers are nearby.
Discovery/browsing. Browse The Great Gatsby and be directed to a different floor with movie or audio book versions .
Event reminders. Walk by  a meeting room and be reminded about the guest speaker who will be  there tomorrow, and directed to a link with more information.

Caveats
Not everyone has mobile devices that will work with augmented reality applications. AR apps are not in wide use yet–it may be another few years before they’re so common that patrons will wonder, “Hey, where’s the library’s AR stuff?”

Experimenting with acrossair.
Since I have an iPod Touch,  not a smart phone, there are only a few AR applications that I can use.   One of them is acrossair, an “augmented browser” for iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad.  You can search nearby tweets, Youtube videos, Wikipedia entries, photos, and more.

Once you find a video, tweet, or what-have-you, you can bookmark, Facebook, tweet or email it to someone.
You can also map the approximate location from where it was taken, get directions to this location and share the location via Twitter, Facebook, or email.
For example:
Let’s say I want to find out if anyone nearby has made a YouTube video.
I click on the YouTube icon and get a map with red pins.  Each pin symbolizes a YouTube video made within a 5, 10, 15, 20 or 50 mile radius, depending on my settings.

map of YouTube videos near me

Clicking on a pin takes me to the YouTube video:
YouTube video found using acrossair

This is where it gets a little weird. For each video, I can map where the user was when he/she made them,and even get directions to the (approximate) location in different “layers”, such as map or satellite.

Why would I want to do this, exactly? I noticed none of my YouTube videos came up, and I’m not sure why.  Not that I’m complaining.

Summary of acrossair:

Pros: Fun, and a novelty.
Cost: Free.
Cons: The interface is a bit crowded. Other people’s information can be shared in ways they don’t know about and/or haven’t explicitly authorized.
Application to libraries: Reputation management.  This is a quick, visual way to find out who in your area is tweeting about or taking pictures of the library.

Related resources:

“How Stuff Works: Augmented Reality.” http://computer.howstuffworks.com/augmented-reality.htm
“Augmented reality and libraries: 8bitlibrary.com.” http://blog.8bitlibrary.com/2010/04/16/augmented-reality-and-libraries/
“Augmented reality using a webcam and a flash.” http://www.adobe.com/devnet/flash/articles/augmented_reality.html
“AR Toolkit.” http://www.hitl.washington.edu/artoolkit/

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