Augmented reality in smartphones is set to become the next big thing. We look at what the concept is, what it'll be used for and whether current smartphones can handle the technology.

Augmented reality technology is getting a lot of attention these days - particularly the use of AR with smartphones.

The idea is that by using certain software, you can turn your iPhone, Milestone or other smartphone into a virtual heads-up display.

Aim your phone's camera at a shop, restaurant or landmark, and information about the place, such as hours of operation, reviews or directions, appears on the device's screen as graphics floating over the image of the place.

Dozens of developers of mobile augmented reality apps are banking on AR becoming the 'Next Big Thing' in the mobile market.

Indeed, a recent Juniper Research report predicted that annual revenues from mobile AR apps will reach $732m by 2014, up from less than $1m in 2009.

During this early stage in the use of mobile AR applications, users should be advised not to set their expectations too high, because current models of smartphones have limited capabilities. But the biggest question is whether augmented reality will turn out to be nothing more than hype.

Remember a few years ago when corporations rushed to establish virtual offices and storefronts in Second Life and other virtual worlds, only to see them wither on the vine?

While AR appears to be more useful than virtual worlds (and therefore more likely to succeed), it remains to be seen how the technology will be developed and adopted in real-world use.

In particular, those in the business world would like to know if, and when, their operations could somehow benefit from using AR.

With those thoughts in mind, here's a short primer on AR for mobile devices, along with some need-to-know points about the technology.

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NEXT PAGE: What is augmented reality?

  1. 'Surf the world' as you walk through it
  2. What is augmented reality?
  3. Mobile AR apps are still in their infancy
  4. Present mobile AR technology isn't precise
  5. The final problem
  6. Unlike virtual worlds, mobile AR may actually stand a chance in the market
  7. A natural extension of human perception