Startups Aim to Make Augmented Reality Easy & Cheap

If your business has considered the use of 3D visualizations super-imposed on top of the physical world, you may be interested in two new efforts to make the creation of what’s called augmented reality faster, cheaper and easier than it’s ever been before. ReadWriteWeb research found that more than 1,000 augmented reality projects went live last year, the majority of them created by big, expensive design firms that specialize in AR and charge tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars just to get started.

That may be an opportunity for market disruption and two startups launched this week that think they can radically democratize the creation of AR. Daqri is a low-cost QR and AR publishing platform for businesses and consumers that was unveiled at the Launch conference this week in San Francisco. Even more ambitious is the Georgia Institute of Tech’s newly released iPhone app called Argon, an open standards based AR browser. (iTunes link)

Argon’s creators call the service “the world’s first open standards-based mobile augmented reality browser.” The research institute that built it is funded by global telephony infrastructure company Alcatel-Lucent.

Not based on open standards but also not born of the academic research world is Daqri, a very business-friendly, low-cost AR publishing platform built by veterans of the robotics and defense tech worlds. Judges at the Launch conference this week, where Daqri debuted, were confused by the open-ended nature of the platform and probably by the founders’ Middle American (not Silicon Valley slick) demeanor.

The communication paradigm is new enough that use cases are challenging to come up with. That’s the optimistic way of putting it; many people believe that AR is all smoke and no sizzle, that it’s never going to go anywhere because it doesn’t deliver real, lasting value.

In the video below, you can see a Daqri browser user looking at how a marble counter top would look if it were installed in their own kitchen. There are clearly some cases where super-imposed visual communication is useful and Daqri offers it as a turn-key service, with easy management over time, at commodity pricing. The company also offers QR to mobile landing page publishing.

Disclosure: Alcatel-Lucent is a sponsor of ReadWriteWeb.

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