Digital and Physical App Convergence

Posted / 03 October, 2014

Author / Enginess

Many new apps are beginning to bring physical objects into the digital, and vice versa – bringing digitized information and interactivity to physical objects.

As tech improves, the line between digital and physical is ever blurring. We’ve previously covered the so-called internet of things, and how “smart devices” someday interconnected over the internet may usher in an entirely new way to use technology. We don’t have to wait for the future to see examples of this line blurring today, as many new apps are beginning to bring physical objects into the digital, and vice versa – bringing digitized information and interactivity to physical objects. The following are just a few examples of our quickly digitizing physical world:  

Post-It Plus

The Post-It Plus app is a free download from iTunes that takes photos of simple Post-It notes. The functionality though, is how it allows you to digitally manipulate them in order to share with colleagues, friends and workmates through other software like PowerPoint, or other devices such as your iPad or desktop. The app allows you to organize your Post-Its under different categories, such as “Marketing,” “To-Do” or “Important,” and even check off ones that have already been dealt with. It combines the ease and familiarity of the everyday Post-It note and adds the versatility and remote collaboration of a digital app to enhance both the physical and the digital. Also, it’s a great way to counteract digital note-taking services that may be out to cut into Post-It’s business model.  


Nowadays, more kids are likely to be engrossed in digital activities than real-life play dates, which some critics have said is detrimental. Osmo seeks to blend the two worlds, utilizing the cool functionality of interactive digital games, and the tactile, social-skills-building and imagination-rich classic children’s games. It uses an iPad as a camera and screen, capturing real game pieces and puzzle boards that kids touch and play with, but adding on a layer of augmented reality score-boards, instructions and characters that enrich the experience. Osmo Words, for example, is a two-player hangman-style word game where kids attempt to guess a hidden word behind an image shown on the iPad.The app records real-time attempts at the word, as kids spell them out for the camera using scrabble-like letter blocks.  


Another augmented reality company, Aurasma, has put out software that works with companies such as GQ magazine and Marvel Comics to stream cloud-based video and additional media (called “Auras”) onto licensed products to provide additional content. Recognized objects trigger the secondary layer of media, activating an animated Iron Man taking flight straight from the pages of a Marvel comicbook, or in reverse, sending information back to the companies, such as how many times a magazine has been flipped through. The best part? It’s open source and freely adaptable to your own projects or ideas. Since 2011, more than 4 million people have downloaded Aurasma’s free app to make their own inanimate objects take on a life of their own.  


SCiO (Latin for “to know”) isn’t only an app, but entire scanner that connects to your smartphone and aims to be the Google of physical objects. Search engines have changed the way we seek and retrieve information online, but there isn’t yet an analogue for things in real-time, physical space. SCiO works by scanning the molecules of objects, recognizing what type of object it is in its ever growing object-bank, and then using that data to give you information on the object via a smartphone app. What started as a Kickstarter campaign is now a relatively cheap consumer electronic that ships to its first backers in December 2014, which could help to not just blur, but nearly erase, the line between physical objects and digital information.

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