Putting Augmented Reality to work for social good


Augmented reality apps are all the rage these days alongwith so many other latest breakthroughs in tech. Very often, we see some really cool tech demo and go “Wow! This is awesome”. Yesterday something quite like that happened to me when I happened to watch this AR app developed by National Geographic


What appeals most to me is the immersive nature of the experience, and thus a greater connection with the content. It is so much real to all of us because we were a part of the experience, and this leads to greater empathy from us, the audience.


These days I often wonder how much of technology is, can & should be used to work not just the coolness factor, but for practical and useful purposes. As I was driving back home from work last night my mind wandered back to this app, and I started thinking of how this might be used for social good. Below are 3 ideas I came up with for use in the real-world:


Traffic Aid – There are times drivers on the road ignore or run past traffic lights just as they are about to change. Once in a while, they run red lights too. How useful would it be to activate the pedestrian strip with a sensor and using projection screens above show virtual pedestrians crossing the street as soon as the light changes. It would make people think twice before driving over virtual people.


Charitable drives – Charities big & small,  all over the world, often struggle for funds. During the holidays some,  like the Salvation Army, often have a presence in nearly every mall asking for donations. But it’s a tough sell. It’s hard for folks to connect with a bell-tolling red bucket toting person who mostly doesn’t even speak a word. What if the causes this charity represented were somehow made “alive” for people to understand? Imagine if each donation made in real-time showed a virtual pantry shelf getting stocked and how those donating or passing by could instantly connect with the impact caused by the action.


Care for sick relatives/friends – If you’ve ever had a near or dear one in the hospital or even in the ICU, you know how much better people feel when they see familiar and loves faces in a sterile, overwhelming environment. But often to safeguard these very people from infections, their families & friends are kept away. Wouldn’t it be nice if hospital patients could experience virtual “visits” using AR technology and hopefully get back to health faster.


Technology is meant to be an aid in our lives, as we evolve. Putting that technology to use for the greater good that benefits the majority, is to derive optimal use of the promise of technology. What other projects do you think augmented reality apps could be leveraged for? There are a few available for free right on your iPhone or Android. Play around, get inspired and come up with your own ideas.