Augmented reality, or AR, is a term that refers to technology that superimposes computer-generated content over live images viewed through cameras. The technology, which has been used in gaming and in military applications on computers, has been around for years. It's expected to be the next wave of mobile innovation.
The Layar Augmented Reality Browser for Android phones allows developers to build AR into their apps. HPSC has created an augmented-reality version of the popular 1980s arcade game Pac-Man. In this game, players run after a blinking dot and users get points for every dot that Pac-Man eats.
DNL Pro has used the Layar Augmented Reality Browser to create Message Central, which allows users to leave messages on customized billboards around them. All users are then able to read the messages on 3D augmented reality objects.
Elipse Ad has used the Layar browsing technology to create the Surprise Me app that allows friends to leave augmented reality gifts for friends to find using their phones' cameras. The way it works is you open the application in the camera view and see what your friends have left you, or what other people may have shared. They could leave photos, audio files, and text gifts all around you.
Augmented reality apps have also been developed for the iPhone. A company called PresseLite has developed a version of the Metro Paris Subway application that uses augmented reality. The icons that are overlaid on the screen display information about where the Paris subway stops are when you look at the city via the iPhone camera.
Acrossair has developed an augmented-reality application for the New York Subway system. It allows you to hold up the phone and look through the camera and see on the screen where the closest subway is. It also points toward other New York City tourist destinations and landmarks and provides the approximate distance.
The Wikitude World Browser was one of the first practical augmented-reality mobile applications that was available worldwide. It overlays information about the surrounding landmarks, so when people look at the screen of their cell phone they can read about the area.