Although it’s becoming a buzzphrase that’s sometimes misused, Augmented Reality (AR) describes technologies that interactively combine the real world with the virtual, in real time and in 3D. Although the concept has existed since the early 1990s, it has come of age in the last couple of years – driven in part by gaming, but particularly by the widespread adoption of smartphones.
Although the potential range of applications is enormous (and certainly not restricted to mobile handsets), the initial mainstream impact is most likely to be felt in your hand or your pocket. Based on a smartphone’s ability to know its owner’s location, AR can – for example – overlay a 3d map of the area to show you the location of hotels, restaurants, public transport, cinemas, even particular shops that you’re most likely to be interested in.
By integrating with the phone’s GPS and sat-nav abilities, you can then be guided to exactly which one of those options most appeals – possibly even book or buy online, read reviews, access further details.
Their initial potential is being realised in city guides by existing publishers, but the potential for tourism, navigation, advertising, entertainment and many other industries is enormous.