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March 16, 2015

Augmented Reality: Seeing Beyond The Future

Augmented reality (AR), can best be described as when the real world meets the virtual world, the physical melding with the computer generated. In the ’90s we saw elaborate video game setups with bulky helmets, goggles and gloves  that could virtually insert users into an interactive CGI world  for a truly immersive experience. In fact, the folks at NASA as well as those in other technical fields like medicine and engineering, have been using virtual reality simulators for years. These simulators help train aspiring users to weld ocean liners, remove malignant tumors or collect moon rocks virtually, and without leaving the office. Building on these available platforms, a number of companies are now exploring AR’s potential for everyday use at the direct consumer level.

One of the first downloadable AR programs available to consumers is the Layar app. It allows users to view, in real time, various points of interest around them via their Smartphone camera or the lens of their Google Glass.

Layar also features streamlining ‘filters,’ like real estate, retail and tourist attractions, through which users can explore their surrounding environment in the manner most applicable to their immediate needs.  The program also makes a solid case for use in education, interactive advertising, product packaging and publishing. There are also uses geared toward education, and the added benefit of interactive advertising, product packaging and publishing.

That’s the essential beauty of AR though. It seamlessly blends our analog lives with some digital pomp, rendering our everyday environments more innovative and more directly connected. Imagine, you’re out one evening in an unfamiliar city, searching for the ideal restaurant. You could phone a friend, browse Yelp, or take your inquiry to Siri…or you could simply hold up your camera phone of peep through your Google Glass.  You’ll get real-time reviews of all the establishments you pass, their hours and even their menu, so you can see if there’s any truth to their claims of “Best Bacon Cheeseburger this side of the Mississippi.”

Maybe you’re looking to change your residential situation and want the latest info on available living spaces. Rather than parking for hours in front of a computer screen, scrolling through monotonous listings,  you can scope the goods in real-time. See a place you like? Use the Layar app to get the exact price, square footage and contact info while you’re standing next to it.  

AR’s possibilities run deep with a number of companies getting in on the action. The technology even got the blessing from Google at this year’s I/O conference in a prescient sign of things to come. However, the technology still faces a major hurdle in becoming universally adopted.

Google Glass has its own problems to deal with aesthetically, and they’re unfortunately overshadowing the raw innovati the hardware is delivering. Furthermore, while building AR capability into apps and Smartphone cameras may seem like a logical marriage, the practicality of holding a phone up in front of your face while on the move is substantially less appealing than a hands-free headset. Perhaps that’s why the one concept that’s gaining the most AR traction is integrating it into car windshields. Land Rover’s Transparent Bonnet is currently in the prototype stage, and will allow drivers to effectively see the terrain immediately ahead and below them (as a windshield should) but with a few bells and whistles like the effective incorporation of a city’s points of interest, nearby rest-stops and customizable attractions. It can also display traffic detail, road conditions, speed and breaking information regarding the surrounding cars in traffic.

AR is, without question, one of the next technological frontiers. With many applications spanning nearly every field, and the ability to incorporate its features from any range of products or companies, it fits right in with today’s demand for an endless well of information at our fingertips. AR can bring that directly to us, along with the ability to virtually hurl a few Angry Birds into the real-life visual of our city skyline. I ask you, who doesn’t want that experience at least once?


Written by Jason Edelman of Fueled. is an award-winning mobile app design and development house based in New York, Chicago and London. At Fueled, we don't just build apps; with teams of designers, developers and strategists, we create visually stunning products that redefine the technical boundaries of today's mobile development standards. We've built award-winning iPhone, iPad and Android apps used by millions of people for clients ranging from Fortune 100 companies to up and coming startups including Barney's, Coca Cola, UrbanDaddy, JackThreads and MTV. We hold ourselves to the highest standard of usability, stability and design in every project that we touch.