BlackBerry Brings Augmented Reality Mainstream, Preloads Wikitude On New Phones

Mobilizy announced today at the BlackBerry World conference that Wikitude, the augmented reality browser, would be coming preloaded on millions of BlackBerry devices.

Upon hearing the news, we immediately had two reactions. First, is this a step up for augmented reality? Does this represent a more mainstream adoption? Or is this simply a business deal and will BlackBerry users see this as bloatware on their devices?

What exactly is an “augmented reality browser,” you might ask? According to Mobilizy, it is an app that “overlays information on what the user sees through the smartphone’s camera viewfinder.” This information includes photos on Flickr, check-ins from Foursquare, geo-located tweets from Wikipedia, entries from Wikipedia and more, and now this functionality will be preloaded on all BlackBerry Bold 9900 and 9930 smartphones that feature a built-in compass.

You’ve likely run across AR before – in my experience it is one of the first things sought out, downloaded and boasted about by new smartphone users. Admittedly, I was one of those folks. In that same experience, AR is also one of the first things that these self-same new users abandon, as they realize that holding their phones up and looking through the camera is not only an inefficient way to find information, but it’s silly looking, to say the least.

Will the inclusion of an AR browser on new BlackBerry phones change anything about the user experience? No, but it could change something about the general acceptance and impression of augmented reality on the smartphone.

What do you think – is the preloading of Wikitude a sign of things changing and the beginning of adoption? Or is it simply a business deal and something that users will still ignore, outside of bragging about how cool their new phone is to their friends?

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