A lot has been made of augmented reality recently, with launches of enhanced street view maps highlighting the fact Google in particular are seriously looking at it as a serious part of their armoury.
So what is augmented reality, according to Wikipedia augmented reality could be described as:
Augmented reality (AR) is a term for a live direct or indirect view of a physical real-world environment whose elements are merged with (or augmented by) virtual computer-generated imagery – creating a mixed reality. The augmentation is conventionally in real-time and in semantic context with environmental elements, like for example sports scores on TV during a match. With the help of advanced AR technology (e.g. adding computer vision and object recognition) the information about the surrounding real world of the user becomes interactive and digitally usable. Artificial information about the environment and the objects in it can be stored and retrieved as an information layer on top of the real world view. The term augmented reality is believed to have been coined in 1990 by Thomas Caudell, an employee of Boeing at the time.
Current augmented reality however does seem a lot more advance than earlier incarnations of previous modelling platforms and technologies, one that springs to mind is VRML -and the commercial opportunities that this brings appear to be quite significant. Even more encouraging is the number of good commercial examples already being used:
Even more encouraging is the apparent portability of augmented reality as technology within mobile devices increases. Mashable recently posted the top 6 augmented reality apps – which I would highly recommend a read of and a play with should you have the applicable hardware which include the following example for ‘local tube stations’ for London
Theres no doubt its early days yet, however the examples above highlight the huge potential available particularly for search marketeers, if one considers both product and local search targeting. Its not there yet, but its certainly one to watch.
Update: David Lindop from BurndownEasy just highlighted this great use of Augmented Reality as well