If you thought location-aware search and other mobile mapping technologies were cool, hold onto your hat. A new wave of innovation in the mobile market will bring augmented reality to smartphones, allowing users to interact virtually with their surroundings.
Augmented reality, or AR, is a term that refers to technology that superimposes computer-generated content over live images viewed through cameras. The technology, which has been used in gaming and in military applications on computers, has been around for years. But thanks to more sophisticated devices, faster wireless broadband networks, and new developments at the chip level by companies like Qualcomm, it has become inexpensive enough to put into smartphones and tablets.
Even though these are still the early days for the technology--chip vendors like Qualcomm are just now giving demonstrations--augmented reality could have a major impact on smartphones in the coming years.
"The idea that a mobile device knows where I am and can access, manipulate, and overlay that information on real images that are right in front of me really gets my science fiction juices flowing," said Mark Donovan, senior analyst at ComScore. "It's just beginning now, and it will likely be one of the most interesting trends in mobile in the next few years."
Just as location-based services have begun to change how wireless subscribers use their cell phones and marketers reach an increasingly mobile audience, augmented reality will go a step further, bringing a wealth of collected data to users' fingertips.
Today, GPS and other location-based technologies allow people to track and find friends on the go. It allows them to "check in" at particular locations. In other words, wireless subscribers provide information about their surroundings, such as where they are, and that information is stored and shared with others via the Internet cloud. That information can be used so friends can locate you, or it can be used by marketers to send you coupons and other promotions.… Read more