U2 says that they’re going to use augmented reality on this upcoming tour. But what does that mean?

Augmented reality is one of those terms that’s been thrown around a lot over the last couple of years, but what exactly is it? Wikipedia describes it like this:

Augmented reality (AR) is a direct or indirect live view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are “augmented” by computer-generated perceptual information, ideally across multiple sensory modalities, including visualauditoryhapticsomatosensory, and olfactory


The primary value of augmented reality is that it brings components of the digital world into a person’s perception of the real world, and does so not as a simple display of data, but through the integration of immersive sensations that are perceived as natural parts of an environment.

Translated, that means “making the real world all that more cooler.”

U2 is always looking to top themselves when it comes to their tour spectacles. For the upcoming Songs of Experience roadtrip, head tour dude Willie Williams–the guy who has designed pretty much every U2 tour of any consequence–is apparently turning to AR.

U2Songs.com takes a look at what this might mean.

Augmented Reality on the #U2eiTour

All of the above, while very cool AR applications, need a smart device, or headset of some sort to work. We do not believe that AR in the #U2eiTour will arrive in that form, for a number of reasons.

  • While cool, using an app on your phone is not really that much of a breakthrough, and we have come to expect only greatness from Willie’s team.
  • Even if a mobile AR app was an option, and might make sense for the people sitting far away in the nose bleeds, in most cases, AR apps require a network connection, and as we all know, 4G/WiFi signals are horrendous inside any venue, so that would end up being a really bad user experience.
  • The screen. The screen in the #U2ieTour was under-utilised. This new AR must involve the screen somehow. And no other devices.

So no, you will not be using your smartphone, or any kind of glasses to enjoy the new tour. (Although, that being said, and if anyone is listening out there, how cool would it be if the Electronic Press Kit (EPK) for the tour was delivered in an AR application, using one or more of the above techniques?) Anyway, I digress. How do we utilise the video-cage for AR?

Enter the 5th type of augmented reality tech: Projection based AR. This type of AR projects artificial light onto real world surfaces, forming digital images. It can be interactive, or non-interactive.

Another interesting application of projection based AR utilises laser plasma technology to project a 3D interactive hologram into mid-air.

Read on. This looks pretty freakin’ interesting. See?

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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