Now, with the launch of HP’s new offering, HP Reveal, augmented reality is about to take a big step beyond entertainment and become incredibly useful. Debuting this month with the January Fortune magazine cover, and with the addition of new technologies later this spring, the new platform will allow AR to embed all kinds of useful digital information into real-world objects via smart printing.
“Once something is printed, it’s perceived as having a dead end. Our combination of AR technologies is sparking people's’ imaginations, they’re saying, hey print can be a powerful, unique trigger for digital experiences,” says Moe Khosravy, HP’s vice president of software and firmware for 2D print and 3D print who leads the HP Reveal project.
The Fortune cover gives just a hint of what is possible. By waving the HP Reveal app over the January cover, readers will unlock a treasure trove of content, including videos. Some magazines have created AR-linked covers in the past, but they were limited to simple one-way redirects and videos. The AR content on Fortune’s cover will change throughout the month to offer a continually fresh lineup of content and experiences.
Anything that can be printed can come to life
With HP Reveal, anything that can be printed — product labels, photos, packing boxes, books, movie posters — can be embedded with a new world of 3D content, animations, videos, real-time data and tracking or content yet to be devised, all accessed via the HP Reveal app.
From retail to pharmaceuticals to food production to tech to publishing to supply-chain logistics and beyond, any industry will be able to reinvent what’s possible by combining print and augmented reality in innovative ways.
A food manufacturer could use HP Reveal to print boxes of breakfast cereal that can dish up tailored coupons. A laptop maker might add AR to the gadget’s label that would let the new owner look up videos if they needed help setting up the laptop out of the box. A drug maker could embed tracking into a label so border officers could easily check for counterfeit medicines using a smart device.
Khosravy was part of the latest generation of computer scientists intrigued by AR, working at different companies on the technology’s development over the past decade. When Khosravy joined HP in November 2015, he inventoried the company’s technologies to explore how HP could innovate by combining print and AR.
Khosravy found a fascinating lineup of digital tools. There was Aurasma, HP’s augmented reality technology that’s used to create, view, and measure AR content dished up on an app on a smartphone using image recognition; Link Technologies, which creates digital watermarks that help companies track and trace products; and Pixel Intelligence, a set of machine-learning algorithms that analyze and learn from digital images.
They were hugely useful separately, but Khosravy envisioned combining them to create a single powerful platform with the whole range of AR capabilities — image recognition, watermarks and location tracking — all triggered by print. “My thought was, ‘Why not democratize AR by providing a platform, an easy way for people to come in and create and use these next-generation experiences?’” Khosravy recalls.
His instinct was backed up by requests the company was getting from partners and customers for ways to track their products and services and learn how they were being used. One partner wanted to know if every printed object they manufactured could have unique information assigned to it so that if there were recalls, the company could easily find exactly the items it needed to recall. Other customers were asking about using image recognition for adding engaging content to photos, documents, and other already-printed items.