- Blippar, an augmented reality (AR) technology company based in London, launched a beta test of its new mobile application that lets smartphone users walk through a city and get more information about their surroundings. The AR City app uses GPS and visual inertial odometry (VIO) data to provide more accurate navigation to mobile users, according to a press release.
- The high-tech maps will overlay digital information about walking distance, street and building names and local sites for the surrounding area on a user's smartphone screen. This enhanced map content is already available in 300 cities, while Blippar's urban visual positioning system is available in Central London, San Francisco and Mountain View, California.
- Unlike other apps that use Apple's ARKit to map a user's immediate surroundings with an iPhone camera, AR City doesn't require the user to add virtual content manually, per the release. The app automatically places roads and buildings in a correct geographical location with Blippar's computerized vision technology. The AR City beta version is available for download on the App Store and works on iPhone models 6 and later.
Blippar, a pioneer in the AR space for mobile marketing, is taking steps toward making AR technology, which overlays digital images onto the real world via a smartphone camera, more functional in everyday use beyond novelty games like Pokemon Go. As Blippar’s demonstration video on YouTube shows, AR City promises to let people hold up their smartphones and instantly see digital overlays that point out nearby shops, restaurants, offices, street signs and points of interest, providing a sort of digital city guide for tourists. The next step in this evolution could likely let retailers and restaurants buy virtual ads that reach users as they walk or drive through a neighborhood.
Luxury fashion brand Kate Spade New York launched a similar AR app in September to boost buzz around the opening of its first store in Paris. The app, similarly to Blippar's AR City tool, guided users around the French capital on a stroll where they could explore three fashion influencers' favorite Parisian locations in real life with "virtual surprises" overlaid on a smartphone screen. The final location was the new boutique, a smart move that highlights how AR can drive foot traffic and sales by tying offline experiences and locations with fun AR experiences.
Blippar's latest app comes as bigger players like Google and Apple are ramping up their AR efforts as well. Apple unveiled its buzzed-about ARKit, the mobile app framework for AR features on iPhones, that makes the tech more accessible to both small and large companies. Blippar has bolstered its offerings this year as the competition heats up among these major digital platforms, launching AR banner ads earlier this year, with Jaguar Land Rover an early adopter.
Meanwhile, AR usage is estimated to grow 30% this year to 40 million people in the U.S. and reach 54.4 million people by 2019, per eMarketer. A February International Data Corporation report predicts businesses will spend nearly $14 million on AR and virtual reality in 2017, up 130.5% from last year.