Augmented Reality (AR) is currently mentioned EVERYWHERE, thanks to the new and exciting possible business opportunities it offers.
AR refers to technology (mobile devices, in-windshield displays, etc.) that can overlay information from the Web on top of objects in the real world. It blurs the line between what’s real and what’s computer-generated by enhancing what we see, hear, feel and smell.

Although closer to reality than virtual reality I can’t help but feel excited at the (very small) prospect that this is just the beginning and that James Cameron was indeed onto something when he wrote and created Avatar – with greater technology I would happily have my consciousness virtually transported to Pandora.

Yell are the latest company to jump on the AR bandwagon with their latest development of a free Augmented Reality iPhone Beta App, which works with the iPhone 3GS.
The App allows users to ‘see’ local shops, offices, restaurants and other useful services through the iPhone’s camera viewer – even when they’re round the corner or in the next street. As you move around, yellow boxes are displayed over the live feed of the world and when touched information is displayed about the specific business such as address, phone number, opening hours, website etc..

I think it fair to say that augmented reality based advertising is here, businesses are already discovering the benefits they can gain by engaging and promoting services via their mobile. Think Foursquare and its current partnership with Starbucks.

The potential down side is that this technology may be perceived by some as invasive and bothersome and therefore it will be key for these campaigns to offer an opt-out clause and to be easily ignorable. I think that the real challenge for companies will be to find the ideal middle ground of a campaign that offers great consumer incentives whilst remaining unobtrusive on a screen.

AR is not only being exploited as a location based tool, interactive print media has also joined the race. Esquire launched their December issue in Augmented Reality. The AR app gave readers a 3D cover with Robert Downey Jr., a weather-changing fashion portfolio, a time-sensitive funny joke, a song, a photo sideshow, and a face-recognition ad from Lexus. Watch the short demo here: – Cool huh?

The future for Augmented Reality is bright and I am excited to find out whether in a few years it will have made its way into my daily life. The Matrix? It could happen..