Augmented reality, or the overlay of digital information on the real world, is set to grow quickly through enterprise development that could feed back into the consumer space and change how people see the world.
The mobile enterprise AR market will exceed $300 million by 2015 according to Juniper Research. The firm sees applications ranging from use on factory floors to help workers identify parts to counter-terrorism.
In a security application, AR could combine with real-time facial recognition to provide instant information about suspects in the field.
“It’s highly likely that AR apps which would also incorporate location awareness will soon by developed for security service handhelds — if they are not already in development,” said Windsor Holden, author of the report.
A number of consumer-targeted AR apps, including Wikitude and Layar, already exist for smartphones, though the software, and the hardware needed to support it, are still maturing. But the transformative potential of the technology is tremendous.
Today’s apps use location data and orientation sensors to detect where the phone is pointing so that it can overlay data — say, a restaurant review — on the video feed from the handset’s camera. Some apps, like Google Goggles, also have relatively limited object recognition capabilities.
More powerful handsets and faster wireless connections will make AR apps far more useful and flexible, providing relevant information about whatever — or whoever — is in front of the user. From there, it’s not much of a leap to glasses that keep a display in front of our eyes all the time with data superimposed directly on the real world rather than a camera feed.
At that point, the line between the real and the virtual will become fluid in a way that science fiction authors have been predicting for some time.