Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Augmented Reality in Aisle 3

Augmented reality is one of the leading technological trends in the mobile communications space. This concept brings together a few different mobile-centric features - including the handset camera, the location-sensing features, and a mobile connection to the Internet - in order to deliver quite a compelling mobile service. Essentially, augmented reality allows the owner of a mobile handset (usually a smartphone such as an iPhone) to point their camera at the world around them and see an overlay of useful information through the phone's display.

This information can be purely factual - e.g. the name of the architect who designed the building in front of you. Or the information can be based on a collection of opinions, reviews, and other subjective matters - i.e. the ability to see a restaurant review by purely pointing the mobile device to the front door of the restaurant.

Where I see this technology potentially revolutionizing the we live is within the confines of shopping. For instance, the mobile phone's augmented reality features can fulfill the role of a personal shopping consultant - providing nutritional information and advice for food purchases, matching and pairing advice for clothing selection, or giving utilitarian advice when shopping for tools or construction materials. The possibilities are quite interesting and could be very innovative.

Although startups and software developers seem like the obvious catalysts for this innovation, old brick-and-mortar retailers might find that taking the early lead on this development might provide that additional spark in consumption needed to get us out of this recession.
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