Augmented Reality Hits the Consumer Market

Augmented reality may be finding a consumer purpose sooner than we predicted.

Between rumblings from independent developer David J. Hinson about a new iPhone augmented reality app and big announcements from Starbucks and Papa John's, the future of augmented reality might be pizzas and cheap gasoline.

Pixels and Policy investigates the rise of consumer Augmented Reality.

Divining Cheap Gas from an iPhone Screen

According to the Orlando Sentinel, independent iPhone app developer David Hinson just launched an augmented reality iPhone application that promises to make the search for gasoline more efficient and cost-effective.

From the article:

In the case of Cheap Gas, enabling "Cyborg" mode will pull up the
camera, and as you aim the phone in the direction of different gas
stations, you will see the prices of gas at those stations hovering in
the air. Tapping on a hovering piece of information will bring up the
details about that gas station and allow you to get directions there.

As the article notes, augmented reality apps are only compatible with the newest iPhone 3GS, as they require the compass feature to function properly. However, this doesn't mean that innovative creators won't find a way to modify older iPhones to function with a scaled-down augmented reality feature. It's only a matter of time.

What does this mean? Saving money is always good, especially when gas prices fluctuate by the hour. Though it seems humble compared to the use of augmented reality to repair the International Space Station, price-finding applications are going to be some of the main consumer demands on augmented reality in the near future. 

Eventually augmented reality will be a default function of smartphones and other smart devices, and information delivery technology will continue to improve until it is possible to transfer real-time price information from the gas station through an MMS to a user on the other side of town.

Augmented Reality Goes Corporate

For Starbucks, it isn't enough to expand onto nearly every corner in an urban area. Studies have shown consumers consider it a hassle to cross the street for a Starbucks
(hence why D.C. has an infamous four-corner intersection with three of
the S-Buxes), so there's big money in making sure people know where
their local java joints are at all times.

Augmented reality is
portable and on-demand. No more opening up the iPhone's map function,
clicking around to open up the search panel, typing in "Papa John's"
and waiting for the screen to load. Augmented reality provides directions and reams more information with the ease of pointing the iPhone camera at, well, anything.

In
the past three weeks, we've noticed the media covering augmented
reality to no end. Pixels and Policy even hosted an Augmented Reality
Week two weeks ago. Augmented assistance has captured the imaginations of consumers, and this has set off giant dollar sign lights in the eyes of large corporations.

Despite
only working on the most recent iPhones (since they have a compass) and
normally falling on the expensive side of the App Store, augmented
reality products are among the most popular iPhone downloads. This much
popularity despite a user base limited to the newest iPhone bodes well
for augmented reality technology.