AUGMENTED REALITY APPS are taking hold and are expected to become hugely popular over the coming years, according to mobile analyst outfit Juniper Research.
Augmented reality (AR) uses real time input from sensors like the GPS, accelerometer, camera and microphone as well as other applications to overlay pertinent context sensitive information, usually over a map or feed from the camera,
Mobile downloads featuring AR content is expected to rise from less than one million last year to more than 400 million by 2014.
So for instance Google Sky Maps will show you the heavenly bodies your phone is currently pointing at, while apps like Layar and Wikitude provide details about nearby points of interest, such as historical landmarks, tube stations, restaurants and so on.
Juniper reckons the main reason for the popularity of these apps is down to the combination of increasingly powerful mobile phones packed with all the necessary sensors and the growing number of app stores making it easier to get our hands on them.
"Preloading an AR browser, or indeed any kind of AR-enabled app, onto the handset, greatly reduces time-to-content or thereby offers the opportunity to increase user familiarity with AR in practice," explained Windsor Holden, the report's author.
Holden reckons there's money in it too, with revenues expected to climb from under $2 million in 2010 to as much as $732 million in 2014.
The report predicts that while AR enterprise apps are unlikely to launch before 2012 due to technological constraints, and will only really account for a small minority of downloads, they will be able to command a very high subscription price.
Whether people will become comfortable constantly holding their phone up in front of them while they stroll around town remains to be seen, but honestly it isn't far off from people careening around like pinballs as they check emails, maps and Twitter every few seconds as they do today anyway.
Personally we think AR is certainly a nifty technology, but until it's integrated into a heads-up display on a pair of glasses, the use cases are going to remain somewhat limited. µ
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