Augmented Reality a useful addition to the world around us

It’s hard to escape all the rage surrounding Augmented Reality (AR) applications at the moment, what with remarkable software like Twittaround and Layar attracting a lot of attention through their ability to interact with the world around us. That, and the fact that these applications can make every one of us feel like the Terminator with a special ability to literally ’scan’ information out of people and places within our field of vision.

Since the AR hype started, more and more augmented reality applications have been popping up but as with all technological developments, some people are responding with scepticism, and rightly so.

Let me take a step back and take a look at what Augmented Reality actually is. The basic concept is pretty straightforward. Whereas virtual reality immerses you in a completely different reality, augmented reality merely adds to the world around you.

According to “Augmented reality is one of the newest innovations in the electronics industry. It superimposes graphics, audio and other sense enhancements from computer screens onto real time environments.”

It seems the biggest issue surrounding AR is taking it from a short term gimmick and in turn shaping it into something really useful and insightful for the longer term. Take a look at the ‘Nearest Tube’ application which AcrossAir have introduced. The 3D application overlays a tube map on a live feed from your phones camera to help users quickly find the nearest underground station no matter where they are. Incredible, I am sure you will agree! Once loaded, the application allows for all 13 lines of the London underground to be displayed in coloured arrows. By simply tilting the phone upwards, you will see the nearest stations, what direction they are in relation to your location, how many kilometres and miles away they are and what tube lines they are on.

It’s true to say that AR will have to live up to its futuristic expectations to appeal to people beyond hard-core technology geeks. But my general feeling is that if the ‘Nearest Tube’ application is a taster of things to come, then we’ll certainly see a lot more creative and useful ideas, being delivered through AR over the coming months.

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