Augmented Reality (AR) is when virtual graphics and/or data are overlaid onto real world objects. Many of you have seen this portrayed in movies such as Minority Report and The Matrix. It still seems a bit far fetched in 2009, yet there are apps that are beginning to make it a reality. One is Wikitude, an Android mobile app that mixes location imagery with information from Wikipedia. We first noticed it back in May 2008, when it was announced as one of the winners of the Android Developer Challenge.
Wikitude is described on its website as "a mobile travel guide for the Android platform based on location-based Wikipedia and Qype content." Essentially it allows users to overlay information from Wikipedia onto a photo of a certain location, via Mobile Google Maps. It currently supports 350,000 locations by GPS or by address. Wikitude was launched at the same time as the G1 phone in October 2008 and is currently available in the Android Market. Here's a video of how it works:
Wikitude represents perhaps the first stage of what is possible with AR. Microsoft recently released a video that shows other future scenarios for AR:
Microsoft's Surface app, released in May 2007, is a pointer to this future.
There are many potential scenarios for AR. A popular one is doing your grocery shopping and checking information on your mobile phone (or AR glasses!) about price, specials, reviews, comparisons with competing products, etc. With the rise of RFID chips and technology such as that being developed by Microsoft, this type of scenario isn't too far away.
Another interesting consideration is that social software will have a big role to play in future AR apps. For example when walking down the street, you could use your mobile phone to point to a restaurant, and overlaid on a photo of the restaurant would be customer reviews, recommendations, and other relevant user generated data. (inspiration from Rafael Torres)
Let us know other apps that are doing interesting things with AR technology mixed with the Internet. And of course we'd love to hear about your favorite future AR scenarios!
For more on this topic, read Alex Iskold's post from July 1007 Digital Life vs Life Digital: Our Inevitable Digital Future and Marshall Kirkpatrick's from March 2008 User Interfaces Rapidly Adjusting to Information Overload.