A prototype Android app that uses augmented reality to read the codes on the spines of books to put them into the correct order on shelves is likely to be a big hit with librarians and it proves once again that AR can be a serious app.
The shelf reading app, being presented today at ACRL 2011, the annual conference of the Association of College & Research Libraries, has been developed by by undergraduate research assistant Matt Hodges and Miami University's Augmented Reality Research Group.
The app uses the Android's camera (the device used in the video above is a Samsung Galaxy Tablet) to capture the current state of the shelg and an augmented reality overlay to indicate the books that are in the wrong positions based on 16-bit tags - although the group, led by Professor Bo Brinkman is working on a 72-bit version to enable the system to scale to larger library collections.
Not only does the app flag books that are misplaced, it will also point to the correct place on the bookshelf so the book can easily be re-shelved correctly. It can also be used for generating inventory reports - so a low-cost and easy-to-use device could in the future help librarians with one of their least-favourite tasks.
Augmented Reality is often presented as something that can be fun and can perhaps make a holiday trip more interesting. Applications like this prove that AR can do serious work by showing people features in the world that are difficult or time consuming for them to see but very easy for a suitable algorithm.