Augmenting my reality in the Waterloo Region

A female face imprinted with technology, looking to a bright future.*snap, crackle, pop…pop, pop, pop*

This is my brain on Felt.

Last Friday, I found myself in artsy/techie heaven. I will never be able to look at the real world in the same way again thanks to a brain-exploding, idea-popping tour of the Felt Lab at the edge of St. Jacobs, Ontario.

Launched in October 2011 by founding partners Quarry Integrated Communications, University of Waterloo and Christie Digital, Felt Lab is the place to go to test out new uses for existing technologies in the realm of interactive digital displays. Fridays are drop-in days at the lab, and I went on a tour with a few others. Jennifer Janik , member of the executive team for UW’s Research Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program (REAP), showed us around and demonstrated the technology at each station.

At first I wasn’t sure if this was the right place for me since I lean towards the artsy side of the equation, with a couple of toes dipped in tech. But with the tap of a toe on a digital display floor mat, I was ready to rock out with my geek out. How can you not think it’s cool if you touch a piece of artwork on a digital display, and it bubbles and sparkles in response?

Beyond the razzle dazzle of the toys you get to explore and play with at Felt, they’re looking for ways to creatively develop the tools and technology to bring practical solutions into the real world.

From a business communications perspective, this opens up all sorts of digital doors for enhancing how we bring clients and employees into an experience. Some companies have already started down this path. A quick internet search about augmented reality (AR) brought me to information about Ikea and how they’re using AR in their 2013 catalogue.

As with any new fangled tech tactic, it shouldn’t be used just because it’s cool (although it is reeeaaally tempting). For a business to get the most value and return on investment, there should still be a strategic business reason for using technology such as augmented reality, MicroTiles, interactive screens, or mixed reality interface tables (to name a few of the displays at Felt). And the real trick is integrating the technology in such a way that it’s not just a tacked-on, ad-hoc gizmo, but a complement to your overall communications program. The technology should be useful, solve a problem, or significantly improve a user’s experience and understanding. Something that is neat will make an impression, but something that meets a need will have lasting impact.

As a business owner myself, I’m tinkering around with ideas for using AR to meet a need for my own clients. I just downloaded software from Metaio that allows you to create your own AR app for free. As easy as they make it sound, I have a feeling this will be keeping me up for a few nights as I learn new code and test the boundaries of my own aptitude. But there’s no better way to learn about new technology than rolling up your sleeves and digging in!

Taking a moment away from ogling the technology at Felt, I also looked at the group of people in the lab. Aside from the huge brainwaves that I could feel emanating around me, I was also struck by the gender ratio. Out of nine people, there were seven tech savvy ladies in the lab. I hope that, one day, not too far in the future, this won’t be a noteworthy detail, but a mundane fact of life not worth mentioning because of its prevalence.

If you’re in the Kitchener-Waterloo area on a Friday, I strongly encourage you to take some time to visit the Felt Lab between their drop-in times of 10am and 4pm. Here’s more info about the Felt Lab and REAP, and the lab’s address.


  1. […] a previous blog post, I mentioned my latest fascination with AR after my visit to the FELT Lab operated by REAP (U of […]

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