Augmented reality is all very well on paper but, if you really want to know what it's about, the best thing to do is see it with your own eyes. Fortunately, some web apps, the odd bit of software, Adobe Flash, your webcam and your office printer are all at hand so that you can check AR out for yourself now, this minute.
If you don't know what augmented reality is, you might want to have a quick read of our first article on AR Week explaining about all that. Now that you're all set, we should warn you that what you are about to see is really just a parlour trick but it's a good trick nonetheless. We'll have some more mind-boggling futuristic applications later in the week but, for now, just enjoy the easy stuff.
So, here are 10 good augmented reality tricks you can try out right now. Oh, and if you're wondering why we did post the videos, well, that would rather spoil the fun, now wouldn't it?
3D Taj Mahal
It's a pretty simple one to start with. This is very much the bog standard of webcam AR trickery. Print out your code, show it to your webcam and you'll find a 3D model of the Taj Mahal in your very hands for you to turn about and examine to your heart's content. There's nothing particularly killer about this one but it's nice to see the sun shining on such a grey day. As with all of these, it works better if you can print out onto thicker paper or, even better, card.
The Tissot watch campaign is an excellent example of how AR through your webcam can actually be of use rather than just fun. The idea is that, this time, the printed code is in the form of a wristwatch which you might need some help to put on without tearing. Now you can run the desktop app, choose the model of Tissot you want to try and see how it suits your skin tones.
Ray Ban Virtual Mirror
Similar to the Tissot campaign, this one for Ray Ban allows you to try before you buy without actually having to be in the shop. Better still, there's no need to print anything out at all. The software manages to leverage face recognition techniques so that all you have to do is choose your shades and then, hey presto, they appear on your face. The fact that the view replicates the effect of a mirror rather than a webcam - i.e. flipped in the horizontal plane - is another nice touch.
Sony Ericsson football
Another one that can work on facial recognition is the World Cup 2010 campaign as run by Sony Ericsson. Again, you get to interact with it, this time by playing a game. The software gives you the face of one of the tournament's star player - and Wayne Rooney - and you get points as you head virtual balls thrown up at you with swishes from your real life noggin.
John Mayer Heartbreak Warfare
Back to holding a paper code up in front of your webcam this time but it's well worth the effort to witness the first ever AR music video as performed by John Mayer for his track "Heartbreak Warfare". Of course, if you can't stand Mr Mayer, you might want to give this one a miss. Again, it's a nice trick but we can't imagine this is going to become the industry standard for music videos any time soon.
GE Smart Grid
The GE Smart Grid was one of the first webcam AR demos to hit the big time and rather put the whole trick on the map. It's a very neat example nonetheless, partly because of the way that the animation of the wind warm unfolds itself out for the paper and because, if you blow, it makes the windmills go round faster - a trick of your computer microphone, but we're sure that you worked that one out anyway.
Tron: Legacy Light Cycles
A promo for a movie this time but it's worth it almost simply because it's AR for Tron: Legacy 3D and the very best part of the film as well - the Light Cycles. There's not an awful lot to this one but you do get to watch an animation of two riders trying to smash each other off your hands. The instructions are all a bit Italian but just stick with whatever word looks most like "continue" and you'll be fine.
Probably our favourite of the lot is the AR campaign for the BMW Z4 which you can still enjoy. Again, it's a question of printing out a piece of paper and putting it down to reveal a virtual model of the car sitting on your desk. What is quite a shock, though, is when you discover that you can actually use your keyboard to drive it off the paper and start skidding it about all over the place. Hours of fun.
The second movie AR promo - this time in association with Coke - gives you the chance to get a closer look at one of those Avatar Helicopters. It doesn't do much beyond flying about wherever you move the paper but it is rather reminiscent of the film - particularly if you've got a 3D capable set up.
Last of the bunch is the slightly insane campaign for Oasis drinks - Rubber Duckzilla. This time, you can just draw the required code out on a piece of paper, as demonstrated by two endearingly giggly Japanese girls. Once you've got that sorted there's a few different games you can play centering around the fact that you're a giant, angry duck with the power of burning down cities. Look, don't shoot the messenger.
For more information on what Qualcomm is doing with Augmented Reality please click: http://www.qualcomm.co.uk/products/augmented-reality