Augmented reality (AR) is starting to become a thing. In place of the oft-quoted promise of AR, tech companies are actually starting to manufacture products capable of virtual interaction. The most basic kind of AR experience can be had by viewing a computer overlay of the real world through the window of your smart phone. This is the experience offered by the Google game (still in closed beta) Ingress.
Walking around and holding your phone in front of you is hardly the most ideal AR experience. Project Glass, also from Google, is a more ambitious use of AR, but it isn’t quite ready to go yet. For now, if you want to use AR for your business, Canon’s MREAL system seems to be the best bet on the market.
For a cool $125,000, the MREAL system offers a single AR headset (though Canon prefers the term mixed reality) that allows users to interact with a virtual setting alongside the real world. Through the aid of AR markers, designers can get a glimpse of what their product might look like as soon an artist’s image can be programmed into the system. This could be particularly useful in industries such as automotive manufacturing where a full scale mockup of a new product is a serious investment.
Other potential applications for MREAL include simulated environments for military training, architectural proof of concept, entertainment (albeit at a steep price tag), research, and according to the company, space management via a virtual walkthrough of, say, a factory floor to see where all the machinery will end up. I’m not so sure about that last one. Seems to me a tape measure and some graph paper might serve just as well at about 1/100,000 of the cost.
Below you can find a video about the MREAL system.