How AR Can Help You Find Your Keys

Dust off those Google Glasses

Key Takeaways

  • Tile’s upcoming trackers will reportedly let you use augmented reality to find missing items.
  • The company’s new ultra-wideband technology brings spatial awareness capabilities that could make finding items even easier.
  • The Tile app is just one of a growing number of apps that use AR to help with navigation and finding objects.
man with vr glasses light painting in front of black backdrop in loft
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Finding lost items could get a little easier thanks to Tile’s upcoming trackers that will reportedly let you use augmented reality to find missing items.

The new trackers improve on Tile’s previous Bluetooth gadgets that allow users to find their stuff, TechCrunch reports, using ultra-wideband (UWB) technology to more easily find the missing items. The Tile app also will use augmented reality (AR) to help guide users to the lost item’s location. Experts say AR holds a lot of potential to help find everything from keys to computers.

"AR enables visual information to be overlayed in a user's phone camera," Nicolas Robbe, CEO of augmented reality development company Hoverlay, said in an email interview. "Adding visual arrows in the user field of view drastically simplifies the task of navigating to a specific location where the item can be found."

Arrows Point the Way

Previous Tile models could be stuck to items and tracked by Bluetooth signal, but the new UWB technology brings spatial awareness capabilities that will make finding items even easier, the company says. Users will be able to see an AR-enabled camera view by using the Tile app. The camera will show directional arrows and an AR view of the item’s location, the report said.

Many of the original use cases for wayfinding via AR involved using low-energy Bluetooth and image targets to guide users through indoor maps for large, complex spaces like conference centers, Vikram Bhaduri, growth manager of augmented reality development firm levAR, said in an email interview.

"The applications were often limited in functionality and scope due to technology immaturity and demand," continued Bhaduri. "Today, Google Maps in AR uses a combination of GPS and AR technology to help users wayfind in urban environments on any mobile device. Mercedes Benz has implemented similar functionality on their new vehicles, superimposing digital cues on-top of the windshield."

The Tile app is just one of a growing number of applications that use AR to help with navigation and finding objects, observers say. AR apps are good at detecting horizontal planes, Adriana Vecchioli, an AR/VR designer, said in an email interview.

"Once vertical, angled planes, curved and irregular surfaces are detected as well, it is easy to map 3D spaces," she added. "AR can then be used for a variety of cases: finding books at the library, items in a shop, checking in a hotel room (show where is the safe, the hair dryer, extra pillows), train a new hire (show where each tool is located), collaborative use of tools and gear (see where the last person who used a specific object left it), sorting closets (Marie Kondo-ing your home with AR) to warehouse organization."

Your Car Could One Day Point You to a Dealership

Users can look forward to many uses for augmented reality as the technology develops, Robbe said. "The future goes beyond just locating objects, but virtually attaching other information to objects," he added. "Think of your car holding a digital copy of the manual and the number of the closest dealership and have those appear as overlays simply by pointing your camera to your car."

Tile may be facing competition for trackers in the near future, though. Apple will reportedly release AirTags item trackers and an augmented reality device this year, according to a report obtained by MacRumors. The report says the AirTags can be attached to items and located using the Find My app on iPhone, iPad, and Mac devices.

Person staring at their phone while a Tile Pro tag dangles from a keyring

"We'll definitely see existing navigation and wayfinding technologies adapt AR and other mixed-reality technologies into both existing and new products as mobile technologies mature," Bhaduri said. "AR adoption will continue to be driven by mobile devices such as smartphones—with dedicated hardware, such as headsets and glasses."

As someone who constantly loses their keys, I can’t wait until augmented reality shows me how to find my missing possessions. Now, if only there was a way to prevent me from losing them in the first place.

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