From left: Laura Diaz, Maribeth Gandy, Philipp Schioter, Eric Singley and Bruno Uzzan

LAS VEGAS – Augmented reality technologies are blending virtual imaging into real-time video captured via mobile phones, resulting in an enhanced reality in which information and entertainment elements are merged with a user’s actual surroundings.

A panel at International CTIA Wireless 2010 this week offered insight on incorporating mobile augmented reality into games, applications, advertising and other mobile sectors and how it will change the way the world is viewed via the mobile phone.

“From our perspective, it’s all about getting the consumer behavior going,” said Philipp Schioter, general manager and business head of point and find at Nokia. “There is a lot of different technology out there and we try to stay technology-agnostic.,&

“You want to educate the user and this is a place where you can point on those things,” he said. “It’s funny how devices have evolved over time. Most of our handsets [now] have a camera.”

Fellow panelist Bruno Uzzan, CEO of Total Immersion, worked with “Avatar” director James Cameron to create an augmented reality product for consumers.

Mattel released a line of action figures based on the characters from the movie, which Mr. Uzzan claims are the first retail toys to incorporate augmented reality technology.

Each toy included a 3D Web tag, called an i-Tag. When users scanned the tag, it revealed special content related to the film.

“New technology always starts with cool stuff,” Mr. Uzzan said. “We are currently working on some medical applications, which can help a surgeon. Mobility will have a lot of impact in the application.

“Devices and hardware are making a ton of progress,” he said. “I told Mr. Cameron thank you because now every brand is going to be doing augmented reality.

“I think brands are really searching how to change passive consumers into active performers.”

Reality games
Maribeth Gandy, who works at the augmented environment lab at the Georgia Institute of Technology, has developed several entertainment games that include augmented reality.

One game features a tracker and involves a physical map which is laid out on the table. The object of the game is to kill zombies who are on the run. Consumers can use their mobile device to play the game by tracking where the zombies are on the map with the help of augmented reality technology.

“We’re doing a project where you can use regular technology to create and deploy augmented reality applications,” Ms. Gandy said. “Ten years from now, there’s going to be crazy apps that change our culture.

“We want to figure out how to create those same sorts of experiences with video games,” she said. “Even though they can be co-located, they can be social. There’s not a lot of back and forth, talking or gestures.”

Mobile advancement
Working with Black Eyed Peas artist Will.I.Am on a project, Nokia’s Mr. Schioter said that the singer was scared because he wanted to build a brand as a musician and did not want people to forget him.

For Will.I.Am, it was all about building a relationship with his fans and not just having them listen to his song and move on.

“You have to ask yourself if this a way to engage your audience in a compelling way,” Mr. Schioter said.

The panelists did question whether or not the augmented reality technology was just more hype in the mobile industry.

There is much new consumer-friendly technology slapped onto devices. Many brands, too, are jumping into augmented reality, with a lot more campaigns that feature the technology in the near future.

“It’s definitely cool,” said Laura Diaz, senior manager at Navteq Network for Developers. “The proof is being able to present that it adds value to the user.

“We’ll start to see that more,” she said. “Anything that is a neat technology is going to have a lot of hype. The more uses of it, which will make money, that’s when we’ll start to see people incorporating augmented reality in the world."

Editorial Assistant Rimma Kats covers content, gaming, media, television, music and social networks. Reach her at

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