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Augmented Reality: Reality, But Not As We Know It

A recent report from Juniper Research found that the increasing focus on incorporating augmented reality (AR) elements within devices such as smartphones will lead to a massive increase in downloads by 2015. But what exactly is Augmented Reality?

To the uninitiated Augmented Reality (AR) sounds about as odd as the now famous term Flux Capacitator – coined in the movie Back to the Future as the tool used by Michael J Fox to travel through time.

What is Augmented Reality?

Simply put, augmented reality is a combination of real and virtual, presented in an interactive, real time way. Perhaps the easiest example of what AR is can be seen when you watch football on TV.

Sports broadcasters typically place a virtual line over a football pitch when showing whether or not a player is off-side. This is AR in practise.

Augmented Reality Apps

The number of AR capable apps on offer has already risen dramatically and have had a massive boost with the surge in AR capable smartphones on the market.

When it comes to smartphones another example is the Google Mobile App Goggles function, which lets you take a photo, for example of a book cover, from your phone and search for it via Google.

But perhaps the best known AR is Layar, which as their website boasts is a ‘beautiful, fun, augmented reality app that shows you things you can’t see.’ It is available for both iPhone and Android, so check it out for yourself at:

The Juniper Research report claims that nearly 1.4 billion annual downloads of AR apps worldwide is likely by 2015, up from just over 11 million last year. Annual revenues generated by mobile AR applications and services are expected to approach $1.5 billion by 2015, up from less than $2 million in 2010.

AR is now used in games, social networking, education, lifestyle and personal healthcare apps.

In addition, the report noted that brand interest in, and awareness of, AR has risen, too, so get ready for plenty more brand led AR apps.

“High-profile companies such as Carlsberg are integrating branded AR apps into wider campaigns, while others – Time Out, Royal Mail, Coca Cola – are using B2C applications such as junaio to facilitate AR content,” says report author Dr Windsor Holden.

“These initiatives are indicative of a growing desire amongst brands to use AR as a key tool to engage with the consumer.”