The last few months of the year have seen a big spurt in the number of applications that use augmented reality apps, the most important of which is Layar. This lets you overlay a layer of digital content over external reality as seen through your phone’s camera. Point your phone’s camera at a street/building/person, and on the screen, information about what you’re seeing is overlaid onto your view of it. With Layar any developer with a bright idea can add their own layer of content. There’s a Wikipedia layer for location-tagged Wikipedia entries, a find-an-available-house layer called Funda set up by an entrepreneurial Irish developer with an interest in property, and a bank has done one marking all nearby ATMs.
Perhaps the ultimate AR app would be one that enables you to discover more about a person you are talking to. In other words, point the camera at them and it runs through their Spotify playlists, most tweeted words, and your mutual friends on Facebook etc.
There are many augmented reality apps being developed for both the iPhone and the Google Android platform and they are sure to be among the most talked about technology of 2010.
Augmented Reality does have a serious future – think educational and remote surgery as two of its core possibilities – but for next year it will be all about travel guides and niche and fun games.