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Communications of the ACM


Augmented Reality Browsers: Essential Products or Only Gadgets?

NYC intersection with information overlays

An AR browser view of a New York City street intersection with subway information and distance overlays displayed.

Credit: Andrij Borys

Augmenting the real environment with additional information is an idea prospected for over two decades within the augmented reality (AR) research community. When deployed in outdoor environments, virtual information overlays enable a wide range of applications, from tourist guides and pedestrian navigation to urban gaming. The number of people aware of augmented reality is increasing, in part due to growing media coverage.

Commercially, mobile AR is experienced primarily through augmented reality browsers that augment the physical environment with digital information associated with geographical locations or real objects by using smartphones with camera, GPS, and compass sensors. While still relatively small in the mobile applications landscape, AR technology has nevertheless become a noticeable player. AR browsers have achieved more than 20 million downloads from mobile app stores, and some are even preinstalled on smartphones.


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