This column is by Alexander Oser Strategy Associate at Apple
Most will agree that if today’s technology spontaneously ceased to exist, the world would be a significantly more difficult place to live. Much to our benefit, this is not the case, but in fact opposite to our experience with technology on an annual basis. Year after year technology is becoming more sophisticated, and it is continuously improving our experience with the word. Computer Vision is a fairly new addition to the ever expanding suite of technologies we have ushered in to improve our daily lives- but few of us have yet to fully grasp the implications of the technology itself. In this post I’ll discuss why computer vision applications will be an integral component in how we interpret and interact with the world that surrounds us, and that we are now lucky enough to see the beginnings of this process.
If it isn’t already, it will soon be common knowledge that mobile devices have the ability to recognize millions of images in a matter of seconds. This technology is called the smart scanner, and it has the ability to bridge the physical and digital retail ecosystems. A prime example was made by Victoria’s Secret, who launched an application for their catalog, in which users scan any page with the camera feed, and are then provided with additional information such as prices and links to their web shop. All of this information is augmented elegantly in tandem with the content of each page, producing a tailor made user interface which accompanies the physical catalog. I have seen the app, and can remark that it is truly a beautiful solution in its capacity to couple the digital and physical mediums of communication in ways never seen before.
The larger term surrounding this topic is known as “Brand Scanning,” and in recent years it has been used by a variety of companies including Target, Victoria’s Secret, Tesco, and Amazon. Image scanning technology is not limited to the retail setting, as it has demonstrated to add value in the areas of education and health. For instance, health companies are working on an applications which provide nutrition information for thousands of grocery store items, informing users as to what products make for healthy meals. For a more in-depth look on this topic, feel free to view the following webinar – which covers in great detail the trends surrounding Augmented Reality Brand Scanners.
Commonly referred to as “Smart Mirrors,” virtual fitting augmented reality experiences which digitally place items on your body are anticipated to explode in the retail space. It goes without saying that Virtual Fitting of products on your body will be a revolutionary tool for marketers and consumers alike, and in recent years the underlying Computer Vision is just beginning to catch up.
One of the most impressive applications of this is seen in the L’Oréal Paris, Makeup Designer application. Using facial tracking algorithms, the app places make-up impeccably on a user’s face, in real time. If you get a chance to see the video, you will get a taste of how remarkable this technology is. Facial/Body tracking is also starting to give rise to jewelry and clothing fitting as well, as we will see in coming months.
Having trouble putting together that piece of equipment? Need some help locating items under the hood of your car, and can’t navigate through that old paper manual? These troubles which are currently being solved with augmented reality applications as we speak. The Audi eKurzinfo (seen below) app can recognize over 300 different elements within their vehicles and relay useful information to the user in real time.
Beyond just relaying information, these applications have the ability to provide visual guidance on top of the items of interest. This means being able to point your camera under the hood and being shown arrows to your fluids and oil. For the first time maintenance procedures are being provided in a detailed, visual, and intuitive manner – dramatically decreasing the amount of effort required compared to learning from traditional methods. For me at least, it is not difficult to see these types applications gaining traction in coming years.
Giving computers the ability to “see” is a task which has been slowly revolutionizing the way we communicate with the world and the way the world informs us. The internet and cloud computing have enabled large scale Computer Vision applications to take effect in powerful ways, and our future is beholden to them. Now is just the beginning, as the set of all things that computers can visually identify is relatively low. But just as the internet has become ever more populated with information surrounding all things, so will our ability to recognize them, contextualize them, and inform them.
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