In 2008, I tested out an augmented reality mobile app called Nearest Tube that allowed me to use my smartphone camera to navigate my way to the nearest London Underground entrance without having to unfold a giant paper map and confirm my status as a tourist. At the time, this seemed nothing short of magical. Five years later, thanks to Google Glass and many other solutions, augmented reality (AR) is finally getting the hype it deserves.
At its simplest, augmented reality is the convergence of data, cameras, mobile devices, and live end users, creating a multi-dimensional, real-time, interactive virtual environment that is overlaid on real world live imagery. The data element comes from all possible sources, including but not limited to social, geographic, geospatial, audio, video, graphic, and computational sources. Now, with the ability to depend on computers to organize all this data, end users are able to spend more time interpreting, designing, and building with that data. This frees users from the confines of a computer and allows them to experience technology through innovations like augmented reality.