How Location-Based Augmented Reality Is Creating App Experiences

by Carmen Apostu
Blog Post

Have you caught up with what’s been happening with augmented reality in apps?

If you caught the Pokemon Go craze, you will have noticed that the augmented reality app provided a contagious form of engaging millions of keen users.

How happy would you be if your app could gain even a fraction of that sort of engagement?

Location-based augmented reality gives app developers the opportunity to engage on a more exciting and personal level with users. Rather than the regular, same display for all that you get in most apps, this technology allows you to deliver an experience relevant to where the user is right now.

So, what is location-based augmented reality and how might you consider using it? Let’s explore what’s out there right now:

What Is Location-Based Augmented Reality?

The implications for apps on phones which have location services enabled are brilliant for app creators. This means you can trigger notifications based on location, helpful for giving people a timely reminder and you can take advantage of the location to deliver a unique experience.

One of those is using augmented reality based on the location. What this means is that you can overlay digital data (let’s say, over a photo function in an app) so you have digitized animations, pictures or other data over real, physical space. Location comes into it when you combine your augmented reality technology with GPS, location sensors and geospatial data techniques.

The result of doing this well can be a uniquely engaging experience for the user, and the possible applications of this are only just starting to be explored.

Challenges for Development

Scholars wrote a paper for the University of Ulm highlighting the technological aspects of location-based augmented reality and some of the challenges involved with developing apps to make use of the technology.

While developments in recent years have made the technology more accurate and accessible, there are still some challenges for developers such as:

  • For accuracy’s sake, various sensors on the smartphone must be queried correctly at the same time so that position and attitude of the phone are taken into account properly.

  • You need to be able to accurately display points of interest or the “virtual” aspects you want layered on the screen, no matter which angle of view the smartphone camera is pointing at (see the example below, taken from their paper).

 How Location-Based Augmented Reality Is Creating App Experiences

  • The technique used for calculating the distance between two points must be efficient and reliable. This is usually based on GPS data, but this data can suffer from errors at times.

Overall, the key challenge lies in maintaining accuracy. If you’re not able to reliably do that with your app, then the experience for the user is diminished.

How Is It Being Used?

There are several examples out there already of apps which are delivering great user experiences using location-based augmented reality. From gaming, to learning to discovering new places, here are a few examples:

Magical Parks

Magical Parks is currently being used by several public parks in New Zealand and Australia as a tool for getting kids interested in their local parks, being outdoors and generally getting off the couch. That crucial enticement to exercise has been a positive aspect mentioned of a few augmented reality apps, including Pokemon Go.

This particular app creates a magical virtual world, overlaying the reality of the park. Kids might find anything from a roaring dinosaur to a bouncing teddy bear as they move around the park. The app is being used as a promotional tool for Parks Week. It’s seen as a great way to connect people with their outdoor spaces and drive awareness for conservation and social action.

 How Location-Based Augmented Reality Is Creating App Experiences

LiveGuide

Travelers on the Zentralbahn trainline connecting Interlaken and Lucerne can connect with their surroundings using the LiveGuide app. This app can point out features of interest along the journey to users and keep them updated as they move through the journey.

Yelp Monocle

The monocle is a hidden feature on the Yelp app which opens up some cool features for users who discover it. Under the “more” menu, scroll down to Monocle and it will ask permission to access the camera on your phone.

Once you’ve got that opened up, if you point your camera, you’ll see boxes pop up for businesses or services nearby that you are pointing towards. You can sort to just restaurants, just bars, places your friends have been, or everything.

 How Location-Based Augmented Reality Is Creating App Experiences

Star Walk

The Star Walk app allows even the most novice of all who are interested in astronomy to gaze up at the sky and know what they are looking at. It uses the GPS capabilities of your phone to show you which stars should be visible right now where you are.

Users can point their devices toward the sky and be given the names of stars, constellations and any visible planets. If you were to point your device at the ground, you’ll get the names of stars and constellations visible in the opposite hemisphere. It’s a great example of how location-based augmented reality can be used for education purposes.

Wikitude

The Wikitude app began as a tool for showing uses who are pointing their cameras anything from Tweets, to reviews and useful information for stores, experiences, or features in their area. This core function is still the main attraction for users, but they’ve also opened it up as a platform for marketers.

Businesses are now able to create their own augmented reality experiences using the Wikitude studio, publish it to the app and gain access to any users of the app who are in their area. As an example, businesses may want to simply create interest in their store and products, or they might want to create an AR experience specifically to highlight a promotion.

Google Translate

While not strictly based on the exact location of the user, Google Translate is another good, practical example of augmented reality in action for an app. While the standard tool has you type or paste words in to get a translation, the app allows you to hold up your camera to a sign in another language and get a translation for what you’re reading.

Future Potential for Augmented Reality

Where could location-based augmented reality take you in the future? You’re really only limited by imagination. The possibilities for education, business and entertainment are vast. Humans tend to be very visual, so offering enhanced visual technology can gain you a lot of engagement.

We got to thinking about possible applications of location-based augmented reality for businesses going forward and here are a few thoughts:

  • Use AR to identify individual products and provide the user with more details such as how it was made, country of origin, materials or nutritional information. (blippar is an example of an app which is similar to this idea).

  • Build an app which serves as an instruction manual or guide for internal use. For example, what if your maintenance engineers or trainees could point their phone camera at equipment and get instructions for maintaining it?

  • Promotional apps. For example, could you build an AR treasure hunt?

How Will You Use Augmented Reality?

Location-based augmented reality is really just beginning to be explored, but the potential applications for businesses are enormous. From education, discovery and promotions to entertainment and exercise, users of AR have the opportunity to be “first movers” in an innovative field.

This technology allows app developers to create engaging and highly relevant experiences for users, based on what they are doing in the moment, a great recipe for a popular app

How could you use augmented reality in your own app? Talk to Koombea today about how we can help.

by Carmen Apostu
Blog Post