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Augmented Reality Becomes Reality

December 6, 2009

The Dutch city of Rotterdam attracted technophiles and developers looking for the next big tech breakthrough on Friday where they heard “augmented reality” being presented as something that could change the way we perceive the world as we know it.

Augmented reality is different than virtual reality in that it combines real-world images with computer-generated images on a screen, usually in real time.

It would mean that someone holding up a mobile phone that has a camera, a global positioning satellite (GPS) sensor, compass and the right software, can point to a city street and overlay older pictures of historic buildings or streets, reported Reuters.

One of the leading providers of the software that makes augmented reality feasible is Dutch company Layar, which is now available on Apple Inc’s iPhone 3gs and Google Inc’s Android-based mobile phones.

“Wouldn’t it be great to stand somewhere and see what this place looked like sometime in the past?” said Claire Boonstra, one of Layar’s founders. “You can teleport yourself to completely new locations.”

She demonstrated various ways that augmented reality can be used, like having a Beatles tour of London, displaying digital artwork on city streets or playing a video game on the sidewalk.

Revenue made from augmented reality is expected to increase from an estimated $6 million in 2008 to over $350 million by 2014, according to a report last month by ABI Research.

Augmented reality has actually been in existence for about 15 years, with broadcasters being the first to use it with digitized images to enhance television pictures. Video game makers, particularly Sony Corp and Microsoft Corp, have also used augmented reality technology as a way to develop more interactive games.

However, it has changed in that it is now possible to use such technology on mobile devices with the features, processing power and connection speeds to make augmented reality easier to access, while broadening its uses.

This change has made way for advertisers, who will be able to market goods and services by displaying digital images relevant to the users location as well as the user.

“Augmented reality has the potential to put everything we have online, and layer it on to our physical experience,” said William Kerchmar, one of the event’s organizers.

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