Posted on June 4, 2011 at 1:04 pm by Andrew Arnott

An amazing use of augmented reality

A new app on the iphone is finally demonstrating the power and possibilities of AR.

Augmented reality (AR) is being talked about a lot at the moment, but for all the buzz, I’ve yet to see anything that’s more than just a novelty. Until Word Lens appeared that is.

Word Lens has been around for a few months now and word is spreading fast. It’s a translation app that only does Spanish to English and vice versa at the moment, but more languages will follow. What really makes it stand out though is its use of AR. Basically, you can point your iphone at any text such as signs, menus or words on TV screens, and Word Lens will translate them, not by adding subtitles, but by literally changing the words you see on your screen into a different language. This really needs to be seen, so have a look at their video (above), which unsurprisingly caused quite a stir.

By the way, for those of you who haven’t heard of AR, it means you’re looking at a live view of the real world, but it’s being manipulated (or augmented) by computer. It’s already used in a fair few places (think computer generated ads superimposed over the real ones at football matches) and app developers and the ad industry seem desperate to embrace it, but too often it’s just about novelty without real substance (BMW’s Z4 AR campaign for example).

Word Lens is in a different league, actually providing a brilliant solution to a problem, rather than just trading on short-lived novelty value. Other AR iphone apps currently available tend to range from pointless to ridiculous. Car Finder is an app that I think features in both of these categories. It helps you find your car with GPS if you can’t remember where you parked it. Seriously, if that’s a problem for you, then you’re probably not going to be capable of downloading the app in the first place! And on the pure novelty side, there’s an app that let’s you play keep-ups with a virtual ball. Fun for about 30 seconds!

Golfscape GPSOne other app that does stand out for all the right reasons (err, if you’re a golfer) is Golfscape GPS. It’s a course guide for iphone (loaded with 35,000 courses) that enables you to see distance to pins, greens, bunkers etc all superimposed on the live view of the course (pictured, left). Genius.

Finally, we’re starting to see the true potential of AR and I for one can’t wait to see how some of these innovations really will change the way we view our world.

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