Augmented Reality as the name suggests is reality that has been augmented by computer generated elements like sound, graphics and text. For example the yellow first down line shown in the television broadcasts of American football games.
Now with the explosion of portable electronic devices augmented reality may start to find even more interesting uses in everyday lives of people. Mobile app development company Layar is one of the first to deliver AR on the mobile phone. Using Layar development kit users can create AR apps that uses mobile phone's camera, GPS and compass feed. The technology can be a big hit with publishers and brand agencies who can provide more targeted ads based on what you are viewing.
Interestingly even Apple is considering its use. In February 2010, Apple filed a patent with US Patent and Trademark Office titled "Augmented Reality Maps". In Apple's method, the device using its camera, geographic position, direction and tilt can determine what objects are being viewed. The device than overlays additional information regarding the current object in view thus enhancing reality. The video feed could not only show facts about the object in view but also provide information on more-distant object. The user can then interact with the display (touch screen) and select other distant objects whose information is available currently. If the user chooses to request directions to the remote object the directions will be overlaid onto the presently displayed video feed.
How is this different from other AR apps that exist today? Apple notes that to achieve the same in other applications user must switch application or at minimum the AR view. This transition can be confusing to the user who now has to relate the objects in the augmented view with the real objects.
This is an interesting area and we will see some exciting applications in near future.