Augmented reality gets traction down under

Hollywood's rendering of the future via films such as the Minority Report may soon not seem so fictional courtesy of development of augmented reality. Augmented reality (AR) apps are suddenly being embraced by brands and getting traction in Asian markets with heavy mobile density.

AR is the concept of combining digital information with the real world. Google's StreetView is an early glance at the possibilities. Nokia's research labs are currently working on a prototype, Mixed Reality View, which does just that combining data from a variety of mobile phone-based sensors such as  camera, GPS, and overlays it with streaming information about the image you are viewing.

The first augmented reality mobile phone browser Layar launched in June on the Google Android handsets. Layar, a free application, combines a raft of data streams from sources such as Google, Twitter and Flickr localizing information on your mobile phone pertinent to your location. A recent report from Juniper Research predicts that the market for mobile AR services will reach US$732 million by 2014, with revenues derived from a combination of paid-for app downloads, subscription based services and advertising.

An Australian based firm, Insqribe, specializing in AR has secured a pivotal deal with fast food giant Pizza Hut for an AR based iPhone app. The service provides an advanced  GPS store locator and ordering system in addition to distance and directions to the required store. For Insqribe, the company's recent successes with marketers in Australia and Japan has led  to the launch of a  Solution Partner Program focused on partnerships with developers, media, agencies and mobile carriers worldwide

Australia is being used as a testing ground for AR technology  with IBM using AR at this year's Australian Open tennis tournaments which was used to display information about facilities at the events as well as information on court events. Over 1,500 people downloaded the application.

Another Australian  developer MOB, has launched a development tool called builderAR to help companies create AR applications based on the Layar AR software. The platform is already receiving interest from banks for branch and ATM locator services and tourism service Urban Walkabout, which has worked with MOB to create an AR version of its printed guides to inner Sydney suburbs.

Juniper forecasts that 350 million handsets expected to be AR enabled by 2014 with AR advertising expected to be increasingly attractive to brands and retailers as the potential user base increases. The theory is that with traction AR and networks will be able to charge higher CPC and CPM rates because of location relevance.

Blog post contributed by Sydney, Australia-based correspondent Natalie Apostolou

Anthony Plewes

After a Masters in Computer Science, I decided that I preferred writing about IT rather than programming. My 20-year writing career has taken me to Hong Kong and London where I've edited and written for IT, business and electronics publications. In 2002 I co-founded Futurity Media with Stewart Baines where I continue to write about a range of topics such as unified communications, cloud computing and enterprise applications.