Augmented reality is probably the hottest current trend in the app world. AR is the natural expansion of smartphone technology. It isn't enough that we be able to connect to the Internet whenever we wish. We want the ability to tap into the vast information reserves of the net in order to keep ourselves informed of whatever is going on around us. AR gives us that, through the lens of a smartphone camera.
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Two new AR apps (ReadWriteWeb) have hit the iPhone within the last few days. Cyclopedia, a pure Wikipedia-based AR app, and Wikitude, which was first available for Android smartphones. Cyclopedia uses the iPhone's internal compass to layer Wiki information over noteworthy sites in the area. It costs $2 and has a great UI. Cyclopedia's one failing is that it only dredges content from Wikipedia.
Despite its misleading name, Wikitude does not get all its information from Wikipedia. This app, which just launched Friday, pulls its information from Wikipedia as well as a local review site called Qype. In addition, anyone can add Points of Interest to the app via an interface at Wikitude.me.
While Cyclopedia is a pretty cool little app, I believe that AR programs like Wikitude are the ones that will actually last. The ability to include user generated content makes it a much more useful tool, especially for travellers looking to find local hotspots that don't appear in travel guides.
What I'm really looking forward to is the first AR app that is created as an extension of a social media site, like Facebook. You'll be able to see in real time where all of your friends are, what they are doing, and how they feel about it. I imagine you'll be able to just click on their name in Facebook to see their location in the city, read recent tweets, or even check their Google Calendar. Sure, such a level of interconnectedness is a little creepy, but I think the social benefits will outweigh the perceived loss of privacy.
After all, people don't seem to mind tweeting their location or letting their friends view their location in real time using Google Latitude. Why would a few more degrees of connection matter?