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article imageGoogle demonstrates how augmented reality could enhance the web

By James Walker     Jan 23, 2018 in Technology
Google's published an experimental web app that uses augmented reality to enhance the user experience. Images can be loaded in an AR headset to see them "come alive" at their true size and scale. Google said its an early exploration of web-based AR.
Article for AR
Google's prototype is called Article and takes the form of a concept online information website accompanied by 3D models. The site's a bit like an AR version of Wikipedia, displaying articles next to images that illustrate them. The regular images are accompanied by an interactive 3D model.
On conventional desktop and mobile devices, the model can be interacted with using traditional input mechanisms. You can touch and drag to move it around or zoom in with two fingers.
Google  Article
Google "Article"
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When wearing an augmented reality headset, new controls appear that let you place the model directly into your world. Tapping the AR button activates the device's camera, starts augmented reality rendering and "sprouts" the model from a reticle displayed on the ground.
Using the headset, you can "walk around" the object and inspect it in detail. Each item is rendered at its life-size dimensions, so you can appreciate its true scale. This is an aspect often lost in conventional photographs and videos.
Understanding with 3D
While Google's prototype is currently nothing more than an experiment, the technology being explored could have immediate real world applications. Efforts are already underway to bring augmented and virtual reality into classrooms, helping students to increase their understanding of topics they're learning about. In the future, online information repositories like Wikipedia could include 3D models that are immediately rendered within web browsers.
"The unique power of AR is to blend digital content with the real world. So we can, for example, surf the web, find a model, place it in our room to see just how large it truly is, and physically walk around it," said Google. "There's vast potential for AR on the web – it could be used in shopping, education, entertainment, and more. Article is just one in a series of prototypes and there's so much left to explore."
Google  Article
Google "Article"
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Article's underlying technologies aren't ground-breaking or revolutionary. There are already code libraries available for developers wanting to use in-browser AR, through projects such as A-Frame and AR.js. Article's more about providing an example of the kinds of experience these technologies can create. As uptake of AR grows, it's likely more websites will add headset compatibility.
Article's not currently accessible online but its source code is publicly available on GitHub. Google built the project using a selection of standard web technologies, including Three.js as an interface to WebGL for 3D graphics in the browser. The spacesuit was created by Google and is freely available via its recently-launched Poly repository of 3D models.
More about Google, augmented reality, AR, Web browsers, future tech
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