Why aren’t all my realities augmented?

This weekend just gone, I went on a Sunday afternoon jaunt into the Ginza, the most expensive shopping district in the currently fourth most expensive city in the world. More on that later, though! One of the most interesting shops in the Ginza is the Sony Store.

Why is it so interesting? Having lots of high-end, overpriced electronics kit is a start. But, the most interesting thing I found there wasn’t something I could buy:

According to my sources (ref: the Internet), this is my first brush with a simple example of augmented reality: a 3D map of the Sony building.

Grab a card coded to your language from the stand, hold it under the camera, and you can see a 3D wireframe model of the Sony building overlaid on top of the card. If you move and tilt the card, the building tilts with you. You can spin it around, and the virtual object moves with it.

When information shows up on the screen, you press “buttons” on the card itself to navigate through menus:

I was just fascinated by this, and eventually had to drag myself away to see other parts of the building. The twisting motions you can make with the card are a bit limited – it would be nice if you could zoom, or if the “buttons” had some kind of tactile feedback with raised ridges on the card. At any rate, I guess this is a technology demo designed to impress, and it certainly worked on me.

Oh yes, and there was plenty of other gadgetry of course! There’s more from the Sony Building in the gallery (try the slideshow), complete with mysterious white, round Sony TV devices, ultra-portable computers, elegant compact PCs designed for cluttered Tokyo apartments, and of course, samurai pirates on TV.

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