Augmented reality - heads up display concept

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Question: What do you get if you cross a Microsoft Kinect controller, some 3D glasses and an augmented reality platform with an Enterprise SAP HANA in-memory real-time big data-ready database?

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post for Computer Weekly in which I questioned whether Augmented Reality really is ready for the masses, concluding that while the technology and platforms themselves are getting close, a lack of real purpose and compelling content may be AR’s Achilles’ Heel.

You can read my original story in Computer Weekly here.

Augmented Reality for the Enterprise

But then last week, while filming an item for the SAP Innovation Show at an event in London, I saw perhaps the most innovative application yet of AR for business.

As part of my original story I interviewed Matt Mills, Head of Innovation at Aurasma, part of Cambridge-based/HP-owned firm Autonomy and one of the main software houses developing commercial augmented reality platforms and applications.

While the offerings from the likes of Aurasma and Blippar are primarily consumer-focused (typically around marketing campaigns) Matt was also able to share with me some tantalising and genuinely useful applications of augmented reality in education and business, as in this example of using AR to install HP networking equipment.

But then last week at an event I had naively considered an unlikely candidate for showcasing gadgety innovation, I stumbled across what can truly be described as Augmented Reality for the Enterprise.

Spatial Operating Environment

Keytree is a UK-based outfit who, in partnership with SAP, has developed a unique product called CEO Vision which it showcased at the SAP Forum event in London last Tuesday.

CEO Vision combines an Augmented Reality platform with Microsoft’s Xbox Kinect controller to deliver a distinctly futuristic-looking data visualisation tool.

Aimed at non-technical executives, CEO Vision sources its data from an SAP HANA in-memory database and using an assortment of 3D eyewear, motion control and display technologies presents what Keytree calls its “Spatial Operating Environment”.

Viewers wearing the headset can peruse and interact with rich, animated datasets retrieved in real-time from the back-end database.

(and if you have some red/cyan specs handy there’s a 3D version of the video just for you)

Parallels will inevitably be drawn with Google Glass which last week also released a sneak peek of some footage filmed using its AR goggles, although CEO Vision perhaps scoops top marks inasmuch as anybody can try it for themselves right now.

Big Data means Big Glasses?

Personally I believe that technologies such as these from Keytree and Google will be essential tools as we attempt to visualise, digest and capitalise on ever-growing volumes of both business and personal big data.

But wearing my actual reality glasses for just a moment I don’t see that the technology is mature enough quite yet. The CEO Vision user interface boldly aims for Minority Report but credibly lands somewhat closer to Lawnmower Man.

Nevertheless it’s still impressive to see it in action at all and, as with Google’s intentions when announcing Glass, I suspect it acts as more of a signpost to the near future than a genuine stake in the ground for now.

 

Note: A version of this post also appears in Computer Weekly.