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Is Augmented Reality Ready for Prime Time?

One of the biggest and most tight future trends for mobile apps is the concept of augmented reality. Augmented reality really summarizes the biggest dreams many technology fans, developers and hardware makers have for mobile hardware technology. In short, augmented reality is about taking real world signals and processing it using mobile phones, tablets and other mobile recording devices and then shooting that data up to the internet to be processed through software which is later on returned to the mobile user to be used to make local actions.

Imagine going to a foreign country and seeing signs in Spanish, for example. You just need to put up your mobile phone to capture the Spanish sign and your phone will automatically translate it into English or Japanese or whatever language you want to translate it to. Another example of augmented reality is you are holding up your camera in front of a person’s face and the camera will add all sorts of photo enhancements using data from the internet to that person’s image. You can even diagnose diseases or appraise a car’s material damage for insurance estimate purposes among other uses. That’s how powerful augmented reality is.

Besides the fairly simple act of taking real world signals and processing it through an online connection, augmented reality still hasn’t managed to really break out and live up to its fullest potential. The current implementations are quite shallow and fairly obvious as the examples that have been mentioned above. In fact, it seems that in the past few years, augmented reality hasn’t really gained as much traction as its initial boosters hoped it would. Maybe this has a lot to do with the fact that QR codes never really caught on in the United States. If you think about it, QR codes are a form of augmented reality. Imagine yourself shopping at a brick and mortar store and you see a QR code next to the product, you hold up your mobile phone and it translates the QR code into information you could use to make that an informed purchasing decision. Basically, this never took off and a lot of doubters would say that this just shows that augmented reality is not ready for prime time and that maybe it would take several leaps and advances in hardware technology for augmented reality to truly take off.

I’m not sure I quite buy this argument. The truth is that basics are already there. It just takes the right problems said and the right creative solutions for augmented reality to pay off right here and right now. The truth is mobile phones already have cameras and apps so what else are we waiting for? In fact, it’s a red flag if we are going to assume that augmented reality will have to take up a lot of processing power and eat up a lot of memory. That would be a step backwards instead of a step forward. Regardless of the limitations mentioned above, there’s still a lot to be hopeful about when it comes to augmented reality. It might just be the game changer that can solve a lot of practical problems the world over. Most importantly, the eventual roll out of a blockbuster augmented reality app might just coincide with the point in mobile device evolution where mobile devices can be bought for less than fifty dollars and can still enjoy top end Android functionality. That would truly be a brave new world and my suspicion is it’s going to happen sooner rather than later.