What’s the deal with…Augmented Reality?

In the tech community, some folks have been talking about “augmented reality” for years. But only recently has it started to really catch the attention of a more mainstream crowd. What is this seemingly sci-fi catchphrase, and why should you be paying attention?

What IS Augmented Reality?

Augmented Reality (or AR) has been referred to as a way to “layer ‘virtual story worlds’ over the real world“.

Ever listen to an audio guide while traveling? You were augmenting your experience audibly. Augmented reality can allow you to do this visually as well.

How’s THAT possible?

Chris Grayson has created this simple video to explain how a combination of features on your cell phone can make mobile-aware AR possible:

And this is for real?

Yup! Owners of the iPhone 3GS users can get their first taste of AR googness in the new Yelp application. While there has been some controversy surrounding the inclusion of such a feature in the application, this doesn’t overshadow the significance of its inclusion at all.


monocle2The Yelp iPhone app has always offered an ability for users to find services based on their location, but Augmented Reality allows for an enhanced user experience. Looking through the “monocle”, you can see the street in front of you, but with Yelp results superimposed.

So what’s the controversy?

Developers had been asking for the ability to include Augmented Reality in their applications, and Apple had told them to wait until the next iPhone Operating System (3.1) upgrade. The Yelp developers tapped into some undocumented, private APIs to build out this functionality. The concern among developers is that this may further cause Apple to slow down the approval process on new applications to ensure they’re not violating the App Store rules. (Note: I seem to recall a Google App that did the same thing, without so much uproar).

Cool, sure. But where’s the applicability to my organization?

With AR just starting to seem viable and likely to have mass appeal, we’ve only started to consider where it may be used:

  • historical recreations of places (i.e. tours)
  • traffic updates
  • how-to instructional guides
  • home renovations/decorating

The iPhone is so cutting edge to support this!

Hm.. well, not really: the Android phone has supported Layar, an Augmented Reality browser, for several weeks now. And Augmented reality isn’t just a “mobile phone thing”, it is also showing up in the Entertainment industry in full force.

Below is a product demo of a new augmented reality game coming out from PlayStation in a few months:

For more about augmented reality, you can check out the Facebook page dedicated to such, or tagged articles on ReadWriteWeb.