Aurasma demonstrates its augmented reality app on the iPad

Most “augmented reality” demonstrations fall somewhere between merely fun and completely useless: Adding 3-D animations to advertisments, playing cards and the like.

Aurasma is an augmented reality application that has much more practical uses, such as adding video to printed newspaper pages, turning 2-D architectural drawings into 3-D models and providing interactive guides for how to use physical objects in the real world.

“Aurasma doesn’t have to be used with pictures; it can also be used with regular objects,” said Aurasma’s Matt Mills.

In an eye-popping demonstration today at Demo Fall 2011 in Silicon Valley, Aurasma showed off how its technology works on an iPad to overlay images on top of the real world, in three dimensions and in real time. The app also works with iPhones and high-end Android phones, the company says.

Pointing the iPad at an edition of the New York Times with Osama Bin Laden on the front page, the app showed the newspaper, but replaced the main photo with a video.

Pointing the iPad at a Harry Potter poster, the app started showing a preview for the movie. The preview dynamically resized and rotated to match the shape of the poster, even when the person holding it spun the poster around. The app also supports interactions, so viewers could click on buttons to purchase tickets, for instance.

And when the demonstrators pointed the iPad at the back of a router, the app overlaid graphics showing which plugs went into which ports.

Screenshot of Aurasma augmented reality iPhone appUnlike many other augmented reality apps, Aurasma didn’t require barcodes, QR codes or other special images. The app recognizes more than 500,000 real-world objects and images, the company claims.

“We think this is the future of human interaction,” said Mills.

Not everyone was amazed.

“Wow, that is so cool! What do you do with it?” quipped Intel Capital’s Christina Herron, pointing out that augmented reality apps have been around for awhile, and that no one has found a compelling business application for them yet.

Competitors include Layar, Google Goggles, Blippar, String and others. The company is a subsidiary of Autonomy Inc., which recently entered into an agreement to be purchased by HP for $10.3 billion. Historical footnote: Autonomy founder Dr. Michael Lynch, who is also CEO of Aurasma, was voted a Demo God in 2000.

Aurasma is one of 80 companies chosen by VentureBeat to launch at the DEMO Fall 2011 event taking place this week in Silicon Valley. After our selection, the companies pay a fee to present. Our coverage of them remains objective.

Photo: Demo Conference/Flickr