Augmented reality is a reality

Augmented reality is a reality

These companies are building Matrix-like virtual smartphone adventures

Fort York’s virtual reality walking tour is an AWE creation Photograph courtesy of AWE

Augmented World Engines, which builds augmented reality apps for smartphones, is best known for its virtual reality walking tour of Fort York. As visitors walk around the site, they can use a headset to see computer-generated representations of the area at different points in history, including a 3-D rendering of what it would have been like to be among the British troops while Americans were invading during the War of 1812. AWE is currently working on a smartphone app, ­Geogram, that allows users to tag real-world spaces with digital photos and videos.

Impossible Things
This OCAD-based start-up, founded in 2016, created ReBlink for the Art Gallery of Ontario. When smartphone users load this whimsical app, they see AR versions of nine of the gallery’s canvases. A 1919 portrait of the Italian heiress Luisa Casati springs to life, as she reaches out a virtual arm to snap a selfie with a virtual smartphone on a stick. A 19th-century painting of three boys lounging on a brick parapet transforms into a shot of the three boys against the Toronto skyline, each holding a virtual smartphone.

A decade ago, Parham Aarabi, a prof in U of T’s engineering faculty, was trying to teach computers to read lips. His technology was so effective at tracking the borders of the human mouth that he soon ­discovered another application for it: virtual makeovers. ModiFace’s app allows customers to apply virtual makeup to real-time mirror images of their faces, then buy the products that look best—participating brands include Estée Lauder and Sephora.

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