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5 Ways Augmented Reality Apps Are Changing Our Lives

If you look through the tech section of any newspaper, or spend any amount of time online, you are almost certainly familiar with the expression “augmented reality.” Used in everything from military exercises to sportscasts on national television, augmented reality (AR) applications have quickly become part of our everyday lives.

But what exactly is augmented reality? In simple terms, it’s a view of the real world that has been enhanced by computer-generated graphics, text or sound. While we may not be familiar with the definition of AR, we are certainly familiar with some its applications. That yellow first down marker we see during televised football games is a classic and enduring example of AR. So is the data that is superimposed on the visor of a fighter pilot as he gazes out of his cockpit window.

But while these are two of the better known AR applications, they have recently been joined by thousands of others. Faster processing speeds and better data delivery networks have combined to bring AR to every aspect of our daily existence. Here are just 5 areas where AR is leaving its mark:


Want to find an ATM or a place for lunch? Apps like Nokia City Lens and Wikitude take the view of the surrounding streets on your smartphone camera and superimpose details of the businesses or landmarks that are included in the frame. The graphics will change based on the direction the camera is facing, and you can immediately get walking or driving directions once you find what you’re looking for.


AR apps such as Google Goggles and can be used to call up background or historical information on landmarks included in your smartphone camera’s view. Pocket Universe does the same for the night sky. There are also numerous apps like Layar that can add AR codes and buttons to static text, so the printed page can be brought to life with digital content.


We all know about bar code readers that can identify consumer goods and compare prices, but what about identifying something that doesn’t have a barcode? Apps like CamFind allow you to take a picture of virtually any object – for example, a car or a shoulder bag – and find out what it is and where you can buy it. These “visual search” apps are also great for shopping abroad. They can give you answers in multiple languages, look for the best prices, and even give you a voice-over so you know the correct pronunciation!

Search and Rescue

First responders and other emergency services are investing in AR apps that can give them real-time maps of buildings in the event of a fire, a hostage situation, or a similar crisis. It’s easy to imagine how a central command post could use AR apps to feed rescuers vital information based on data transmitted by head-mounted cameras and other assets.


Urban planners, architects, landscapers and interior decorators can all be assisted in the design process by having an idea of how their ideas will translate to the real world before they are implemented. Everything from commercial real estate projects to simple furniture choices can be validated or revised based on AR simulations.

So the next time your hear the phrase “augmented reality,” sit up and take notice. It has already made a big difference to the way we live our daily lives and we've just gotten started!

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