It is estimated that mobile augmented reality apps will have almost 1.4 billion downloads by 2015 and it seems that augmented reality can be the next trend on smartphones. Users are likely to prefer augmented reality to, for example 3D, and the developers’ race to get a part of this trending market has started.
AR makes search more interesting
Search in real and virtual world is now combined by using augmented reality apps. Thus, for example, you can take a photo of an object and Google will analyze it, recognize it among the enormous archive of Google images and display search for this term. Or you could use Layar, the app which adds geo-referenced information to the images you see through your iPhone screen. Looking for a cozy coffee shop to have your afternoon latte just became twice as interesting when you see an interactive AR map through your phone camera, with distance from your position, customer reviews, photos, etc.
AR adds relevant information to real-world objects
Augmented reality offers limitless possibilities to combine real life objects with reference information. We all remember how cool the Terminator looked in the first part of the trilogy with his ability to see not only objects around him but also the most relevant information about those objects. There is already an app for this purpose – Wikitude, which adds information from Wikipedia, Youtube and other sources to the objects you see on your display. Services (and apps) like this one could easily become the usual way of presenting geo-referenced information very soon.
AR is cool to play with
Ok, geo-targeted reference information in combination with AR is quite interesting, but AR games are really cool. Now, we can play with virtual characters and objects in real space, merging the two worlds into a big battle field. One interesting attempt to create a cool game which utilizes this is AR Invaders, which lets you play Space Invaders in the real world. If you are outside, you can save the planet by fighting the alien space ships on a town square or in a park.
Or, if you don’t want to go out and prefer ’desktop’ versions you could try ARDefender, a funny little game in which you guard an augmented-reality Tower on your desk from enemies. Another interesting attempt, which has recently won Augmented Reality Application Developer Challenge, announced at Mobile World Congress 2011, is Paparazzi, a game in which your aim is to take a paparazzi photo of a (virtual) celebrity without agitating him to the point where he would smash your camera. A funny game, indeed, and there are definitely many more like this one to come out in the future.
AR and marketing
And marketers just seem to love these AG options and the possibilities they give for campaigns. Audi and Stella Artois are just examples of how augmented reality could be used to create brand awareness and promote the company. This, however, does not nearly use all the possibilities of the medium and as smartphones penetration increases so will the campaigns which utilize augmented reality features.
Virtual and real are getting closer and soon they will become one. Augmented reality apps are a mobile portal into this new world. Imagine playing AngRy Birds in real space – now you get the idea of what is to come in the next year. And it will probably be way bigger success than 3D.
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