10 augmented reality technologies you should know about

With Google Glass hype at an all-time high, businesses with an eye toward technology are starting to take augmented reality seriously. Although many augmented reality apps are designed for entertainment or personal uses, the technology provides plenty of opportunities for businesses.

[ALSO: Augmented reality: What do businesses need to know?]

Vuzix's Eyewear for Industry

Google gets all the glory, but it isn't the only company with an eyewear project. The Vuzix M2000AR displays content from a connected device over a video stream of real-world content, which could be perfect for managers or employees who need to access technical data or repair procedures while in the field.

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Innovega's augmented contact lens

Of course, the next step up from glasses is contact lenses. Innovega has developed contact lenses capable of projecting augmented reality content, eliminating the need for pesky headwear. Although the project is geared specifically for use in the military, it's hardly the only prototype of a high-tech contact lens. So it may not be too far-fetched to expect augmented reality contact lenses for consumers sometime in the not-too-distant future.

IBM's shopping assistant

More recently, IBM has released a retail-focused smartphone app called the Augmented Reality Shopping Assistant. Essentially, the app will scan shelves at retail stores and provide information to show what products are placed where, as well as link to additional pricing or health information. This is one of those no-brainer apps that smartphone users will adopt quickly.


Another option with potential for large-scale usage is TagWhat, which promotes events, deals, discounts and offers at nearby businesses. Based on the most recent social media information for nearby businesses, TagWhat tells users what's going on at a given moment in a given area.

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The next step up from QR codes, Layar links the print and digital worlds by transforming print to digital content in real time. Holding the Layar app over AR-enabled print advertisements can activate live video content or related information or applications, such as an online shopping cart.

Ikea Catalog App

An Ikea project launched last year is a good example of how successful AR-enabled print content, such as Layar's, can be. When viewed through a smartphone app, the furniture in Ikea's catalog came to life, allow the user to view it in 3D. The app, which wasn't launched until July, was downloaded more than any other branded app in 2012.

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Metaio augmented reality chipset

Of course, for any of this to be valuable, smartphones will need to be able to use the technology, which is a major power suck and hoards battery power. Just last month, German AR company Metaio announced a partnership with ST-Ericsson to develop the AREngine, a chipset that Metaio CEO Peter Merier said "will do for augmented reality what the GPU did years ago for the gaming industry."

Nokia's CityLens

One manufacturer that is slated to use Metaio's AREngine is Nokia, which has offered a location-based AR app on its Lumia smartphones since last year. CityLens projects relevant information over video playback of a given area, suggesting restaurants or local businesses that may be of interest and linking to additional information about them.

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Mitsubishi augmented reality for instructions

Solving a once-tedious process of providing instructions for customers, Mitsubishi's MeView augmented reality app shows customers how to install or fix its heating and air-conditioning products. Customers will no longer need to flip through lengthy instruction manuals when trying to make a quick fix.

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NGrain 3D augmented reality for training

Similarly, NGRAIN's augmented reality app could be a good investment for businesses that need to train employees on industrial equipment. Viewing a piece of equipment through an iOS device, 3D/2D graphical overlays walk the user through the steps, creating a learn-by-doing training experience.