I constantly find myself defending my enthusiasm for Mobile Augmented Reality (AR) in mHealth. Colleagues accuse me of being too carried away with the likely market opportunity of something that is still oddly enough widely considered to be just another fad. The potential for Mobile AR is far from hype – and I think I’ve got a good sense of that (eg. you’ll never find me talking up the likes of WAP, Location Based Services, Health 2.0 or NFC on this blog!).
I think it’s because to most people the idea of talking to your phone or pointing its camera at something to make it do something is just so far fetched from the reality of today’s technology which continues to disappoint or fail to work at all.
So it was a very encouraging to get some validation of Mobile AR from Googles Eric Schmidt in his first ever talk at Mobile World Congress in which he talked up both mHealth and Mobile AR. Big shame he didn’t realise the opportunity to combine the two because the big plus when you make things so easy to use is that they can begin to be used by people who don’t care about the technology. Instead of wowing the techies in the crowd with things they already do on a daily basis with their mobiles (eg. a Voice Search for information on a Berlin nightclub or Image Recognition to discover tourist information about the Familia Sagrada) albeit using manual text entry, I think Eric Schmidt would have really wowed everyone if he showed the audience how they could given a phone to their mother that would extent the potential of Google Health membership by offering her personalised information about any drug she is considering taking (eg. “take 2 with a glass of water”) if she just points her mobile camera at the packaging or the tablet. Whilst at the same time making it possible for your mothers (Google Health empowered) Doctor to remotely monitor her medication compliance and general health via on screen question prompts.
I’ve met quite a few mHealth researchers over the years (even met a few at MWC this year) who are really enthusiastic about the potential for NFC. But you show the same people Mobile AR and they say… “wow you’ve just removed the two big barriers to adoption. This now works on any connected smartphone with a camera and I don’t need to secrete these NFC tags everywhere!”.
Sadly Mobile AR is getting branded as the next big hype so imagine my enthusiasm when I heard that someone I follow (Christine Perey of Perey Consulting) would be organising the worlds biggest ever demo of Augmented Reality applications at Mobile World Congress in an open-air “speed dating” style showcase.
As the 8th (already discovered) unique ability of mobile as the newest mass media I was so keen that mHealth examples would be on show that I found I had to volunteer myself to ensure it happened. Here’s me at the event (wearing a rather ridiculous gold coloured shawl that I was given to identify me as one of the presenters):
My demo showed how just capturing the image of a medication packaging could reveal other personally relevant information and raise alerts to conflicts with regard to allergies, other possible side effects, etc. through interaction with my medication data sets and my 3G Doctor Health Record information securely located in the cloud. Using a big demo phone I tried to show how the issues of small print, counterfeiting and issue reporting could be managed through a simple application layer.
Imagine being a patient who has to take 80 different medications per week, now imagine how your camera phone (without the need for barcodes, text entry, or NFC) can ensure you comply with meds and never forget whether you’ve taken them or not (because it time stamps and can even video record every time it sees the meds). This is so elegant, low cost and easy to use that I think I’m justified in my enthusiasm for Mobile AR. After some of the contacts I made through Wednesdays Showcase I’m confident that this space is going to take off very soon…
The full list of participating companies included 3G Doctor, 8motions, AcrossAir, Alcatel Lucent, ARToolworks, Google, int13-Kweekies, int13-ARDefender, kooaba, Layar, metaio, Millform, Mobile Acuity, Mobilizy-Wikitude, Mobilizy-Wikitude Drive, mSTIR, Olaworks, Presselite-Firefighter 360, Presselite-Tweet 360, Sequence Point Software SL, Telefonica Research & Development, Tonchidot, Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, V-Gate, VTT, and WorkSnug
This blog post is part of a series of mHealth reviews from the Mobile World Congress 2010. Click here to get the full review.