A new app launched this week aims to bring augmented reality to the streets by annotating real objects with virtual drawings. Mirage combines social media with augmented reality, offering a platform for "real world" communication.
Mirage launched this week on the App Store for iOS devices. Its creators explained the idea behind the app in an article with WIRED. Mirage is the result of a small team's work to use augmented reality to open up a "hidden world."
It's meant to add life to the streets by overlaying interactive "mirages" on reality. To take a mirage, you point your phone's camera at something and take a photo. You can annotate it with drawings, text, emoji and animations, similarly to the photo effects offered by social media apps.
Mirages are visible to other users of the app. They appear on a map of your vicinity as a glowing circle. You can view the mirage by heading to the location shown and opening the app. A small thumbnail will help you navigate towards the position of the mirage. Once you've found it, you can share it with your friends.
Mirage itself doesn’t place many restrictions around how it's used. According to the team, that's the entire point. It's a combination of social media, crowd participation, augmented reality and Pokémon Go-style treasure hunting. The principle is to create "a world living on top of reality," a digital ecosystem accessed through the real world.
Mirages act as a kind of gateway between our digital and physical lives. They can be used to "deep link" to online content from the real world. A mirage of a hashtag could open Twitter; one of a photo might launch Instagram. According to the app's creators, Mirage reflects the Internet "oozing into reality."
Ryan Staake and Patrick Piemonte, the app's co-founders, both used to work as interface designers at Apple. Mirage isn't based on any of the company's technology though. Although Apple recently announced its own ARKit augmented reality platform, the team found it wasn't suitable for implementing Mirage.
Piemonte told WIRED that ARKit is a "special use case" meant to offer generalised augmented reality capabilities. Mirage is more context-centric though, making the app difficult to build and scale using ARKit.
ARKit is set to power a new generation of augmented reality apps but it's not a catch-all solution. For AR in general, more platforms can only be a good thing, offering multiple alternative interpretations of the technology focused on different use cases.You can download Mirage today on iOS devices.
Mirages you create will disappear after 24 hours but a community upvoting system makes it possible to extend the timer. Mirage is available worldwide but you're not likely to find many mirages in your area just yet. With a little time, the app could create a new layer of reality though, one that creates a bridge between cities and social networks.