Augmented reality (AR) has a long way to go before it achieves widespread acceptance and exposure to the public, but thankfully, many of the leading companies are continuing to make large strides towards this goal with commercialization of applications and the growing popularity of AR advertising. Earlier this month, metaio, one of leading vendors of AR software and services, updated its iPhone application junaio to version 2.0 in an effort to keep up with the growing AR browser market, but it is a truly useful implementation of AR in this app that will help the emerging technology reach more users.

Previously, the junaio app was its own social network that allowed users to create AR scenes by importing 3D models into still images captured from the phone's camera, but with the latest version of the software, junaio is now competing with Layar and Wikitude and others in the AR browser space. A few weeks after releasing the updated application, junaio announced it had formed a partnership with BART, San Francisco's Bay Area Rapid Transit system, to bring live train data to the app.

Subway maps have been one of the more popular implementations of AR on mobile phones, especially with Paris-based developers Presselite and their popular, award-winning Metro Paris Subway application. With this latest release, junaio is taking advantage of the API provided by BART to not only place locations of nearby stations in a user's field of vision, but also estimated arrival time of trains at each station displayed live in real-time in the AR point-of-view.

The AR community needs more partnerships like this to be formed; it is practical applications like this that will push AR into the mainstream. There are a dozen different ways to find the nearest pizza place via an AR app on mobile devices, and frankly, that's getting a little old. It's not enough to just point me toward something, and I don't think that will be enough to convince enough of the general public to embrace the technology.

Desktop-based webcam AR is way ahead of mobile AR in terms of providing practical applications. Examples include the USPS virtual box that helps customers determine which size box to use for shipping; the virtual mirror technology which helps customers try on sunglasses, hairstyles, clothing, makeup, shoes, etc.; and more recently, Samsung's TV sizer AR experience that lets users see what a new TV might look like mounted on their wall (see video below).

These are the kinds of applications that are helping AR kick the reputation of being a gimmicky novelty technology and instead build one of practicality and usefulness. If mobile AR solutions are going to continue to gain corporate ads and sponsorships, they will need to find innovative ways other than pointing things out to survive in the long run.