Thing 14: Augmented Reality

imagesCAGW7D8P I’m absolutely blown away by this week’s realm of exploration – a fitting description I feel for something that is literally an extension to the “real” world. I’ve had a good read of the user guide to Aurasma and have set up an account which I hope I will be able to use to possibly create my own campaign in the future. Though I’ve spent a fair bit of time looking into it all I decided against creating a campaign for now as it seems like a lot of work for something which won’t be put to good use, having said this I’m hoping that my masters, which begins in September, will potentially give me an excuse to create a campaign at some point in the form of an assignment (and I will inevitably feel smug for my creativity and genius). Unlike other sites like pinterest or Twitter that we’ve looked at – Aurasma is a lot more involved, however you get to create your own unique augmented reality experience; a product which I think is worth the hard work.

There are so many contexts in which this could be useful – if being used in the context of promoting library services I would say that this is something that would work really well with children. Lots of children are kinaesthetic learners and thrive off of “doing” rather than sitting and reading or writing. AR could facilitate some really fun learning experiences where children can actively participate in a task which is both physically and mentally involving which they are far more likely to find engaging and remember. I also like the idea of AR physically helping library patrons identify books on the shelves and guiding them to the correct area. Often library users can feel embarrassed to ask questions or perhaps feel they’d rather do it themselves, using AR as a guide is the perfect bridge in-between.

I find the concept of technologies in libraries particularly interesting and have found Lyn Robinson’s Blog very informative, she’s the head of library and Information Science at UCL (London) and is interested in:

  • The nature of library and information science as a discipline, and the implications for education and research
  • Information resources, the nature of documents and communication
  • Information behaviour and use associated with creative works including: multimedia, fan fiction, fashion and art


I saw her present at a conference for graduates interested in studying the library qualification and was instantly captivated by her passion. She talked about the evolving discipline of information science and emphasised how “publishing” as we know it is being completely radicalised and new types of documents are being created, particularly digital documents whereby hybrids or “mash-ups” are being created and the power of authority that once lay completely in the hands of the publisher’s is being shifted to the public. Then she moved on to talk about AR. She said we are moving from interacting with information to becoming immersed in it. She advanced that immersive documents are a result of three factors; 1) networked and mobile devices becoming pervasive (through things like Bluetooth and NFC technologies), 2) multimedia becoming multisensory (wearable technologies like “google glass”, smart eyewear) and 3) participatory media as a development of interactive media.

The exciting scope for innovation is perfectly illustrated by UK initiatives to encourage experimentation; in November The Writing Platform announced plans to offer two bursaries worth £4000. The main stipulation for the brief is that each “team” who wishes to compete for the grant (which is being offered in partnership with Bath Spa University Creative Writing Course) must comprise of one writer and one technologist to produce a fusion of the two disciplines. I will be keeping my eye on the outcome of this interesting project in the New Year.imagesCA7N39KD

Lyn pointed out that this is not just confined to books, there are various ways in which the immersive experience is becoming the norm such as online gaming and participatory theatre; the increase of activities like this illustrate the consumer’s demand for a more enriched, all-encompassing experience and it is the devices that are enabling this. As a reader of time-out magazine in London, I can safely say that the immersive experience is just about as trendy as a super-food salad here. I’m forever seeing articles about interactive dining evenings which fuse theatre with food and active audience participation – it’s hard to define these modern experiences but they’re all the rage. Readers are now receiving texts and emails from book characters or gaming characters and the lines of reality are becoming ever more indistinguishable as the emergence of new technologies allow for more comprehensive means of engaging the consumer with the text.

I’m also going to talk about one talk in particular which I saw at the E-book conference I spoke about last week.

Offering a slightly different perspective than that of the average librarian, Javier Celaya’s presentation had a very technical element. Interestingly, he is the founding partner of dosdoce, a Spanish company which analyses key trends in the cultural sector, offering management consultancy services, research services and training in digital skills to professionals across different sectors including publishing, museums, and libraries and retailers.

The presentation explored upcoming digital experiences in libraries, all delegates were given a laminated “digital roadmap for libraries” that had collated some of the research dosdoce had conducted. The roadmap reads as an inventory for the emerging technologies which Javier perceives to be an enhancement of library services. He emphasised the importance of libraries moving “beyond the physical building”, envisioning a library service where the virtual and the physical experience are inextricably interconnected.

dsc_0432He explored the use of beacons; relatively low cost “micro-location” technology that relies on Bluetooth signals to send messages to app enabled smart phones. The messages can contain information to personalise and enrich user experience. For instance when a patron enters the library and walks past a beacon, a message could be sent to their phone alerting them to new books or new services. They could also be installed outside of the building, strategically placed in nearby bus stops or tube stations giving people directions to the library and promoting its services. Beacons are very much set to be part of the future with brands like House of Fraser and Asda testing them out in flagship stores. They are thought to be a similar but modified version of near field communication which works in similar way but transmits data through radio waves rather than the more smart-phone-compatible method of Bluetooth. Whilst devices must be within at least 4cm of proximity in order for NFC to work, beacons can be as far apart as 50m. It is debatable which is the preferred technology, though in my opinion it depends on the intention of the user. NFC requires opted for participation so this may be useful if, for example, I wanted to share a music file from my phone with a friend. Beacons are more commercially useful and if used well, could help inform library users of things that would be of interest to them based on past transactions. Though I can’t deny the innovation of such advancements, I can’t help but feel that equipment like this will inevitably be exploited for commercial purposes eroding the sanctity of a life where we aren’t consistently inundated with the unyielding, greed-fuelled propaganda of profitable interests.

Javier mentioned the usual suspects, facebook, twitter, pinterest and goodreads, briefly explaining how web applications and social networking sites can help create a faculty-patron relationship. He also mentioned the concept of augmented reality; devices that allow a digitally enhanced view of the real world which can be as simple as making use of QR codes which are already a popular tool amongst mercantile enterprises. There were some very futuristic, sci-fi inspired digital technologies too including facial recognition systems, robots and movement sensor carpets, all of which are designed to monitor user behaviour patterns like how long users spend in certain areas and at what times. It was articulated that technologies like this could give insight that would facilitate a more user orientated service but there certainly comes a point, in my opinion, where technology is being created for the sake of technology being created and things are invented to do things that would be better done by humans!

He spoke about the controversial topic of drones (described as unmanned combat vehicles) to transport books to less able members and even wearable gadgets like the virtual reality glasses currently being developed by the likes of Google. The conclusion from Javier was that the library is no longer an analogous activity hub but one which is shared with technology.

Four words: Bring on the Future!


2 thoughts on “Thing 14: Augmented Reality

  1. I did laugh at AR for finding books fiction is A-Z for gods sake! or 100-999 its not rocket science.
    I really dislike the intrusion of certain media in my life. Augmented media especially as I think it will be used just to sell things or bombard you with advertising eventually.
    I’m beginning to think those guys on mountains in the USA to escape from the madness of the modern world may have a point!
    I’m not normally a crank by the way. I just don’t like this


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