The new way to look like a dork with an iPhone: Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality apps are about to become the HUGE rage on the iPhone. Why?

They demo well.

What are they? These are new apps that use the iPhone 3GS’s camera, compass, accelerometer to overlay data on real life. You point your iPhone down the street in New York, for instance, and it shows you where the closest subway stop is.

The problem is, this will make you look like a total dork.

I’m cool with that!

Why talk about these apps today? The first one shipped today. Here’s some good articles about the trend.

Layar3, and others, discussed on

The augmented reality blog is covering the trend.

ReadWriteWeb writes about the first augmented reality app shipping yesterday.

Mashable on top 6 augmented reality apps.

TechCrunch on Layar.

So, what can we do about the usability and the dorky factor? Well, NRU shows off an augmented reality app that works well as both a regular iPhone app that you can hold flat, as well as one that you hold up in front of you.

Cool deal. I can’t wait to look like a dork, though. Shoot me.


  1. Scobie Snacks!

    Below is my post to Marshalls blog. The AR space has mega-legs and it will be go hand in hand with social media as we share AR GEO markers on the fly… There are already new technologies to create your own markers and advancements in WIFI broadband and enabling chip sets.


    Hi Marshall,

    Glad you are hitting now on the AR space and thanks for the interview last weekend. This is going to be a HUGE space. You phone becomes both IR viewer and tag marker, plus remote control magic wand.

    The gang over at Microvision were working on AR glasses for military applications with direct to cornea laser projection. We see this in war fighter machine vision system and the latest “Military Advertisements on TV”.

    I believe that AR is where the ad dollars will flow as AR brings time and place offers that are on the fly and measurable via digital signatures. A space on par as hot as social media, perhaps more so for the ad world.

    The tools enabling technologies are now coming in place from NVIDIA’s Tegra platform, mobile video cameras, sensors such as GPS and ubiquitous wifi broadband.

    The question not “if” but “when” as the iPhone and Apple will want to control this space via the App Store and already locks down innovation with their ULA.

    I can imagine a day where we have AR911 features in our phone so when shit hits the fan, we have AR features telling us how to get the heck out of town with the big one hits in Seattle and Portland.

    Keep rocking on the AR space as this is the future of media.

    Best, Tim Reha

  2. Right, but next month Apple is approving a whole bunch of augmented reality apps and I'm pretty sure this one is coming to the iPhone too. But nonetheless there's a whole bunch coming to the iPhone.

  3. “The new way to look like a dork with an iPhone:”
    Have your handlers at Microsoft told you to turn up the anti-iPhone ugliness, Robert?

  4. Bruce Sterling has been blogging on AR at Wired for some time now.

    6 or 7 years ago, I found out about one of the pioneers of AR, Steve Mann, who's been working on it for about 20 years.

    I don't think AR will really be useful on phones. Instead, it's best using VR goggles, which Mann and others have succeeded in miniaturizing into something that looks exactly like ordinary eyeglasses. If you've read Snow Crash, you'll notice that the character YT is wearing such glasses (the archetypical mirrorshades of cyberpunk, to be exact). The advantage of eyeglasses is that they can be used as a stereo/3D monitor. I've been long convinced that this is how AR will catch on. Not with cellphones, no matter how “smart”.

  5. About time this space is highlighted. Global Agencies are already on this and commercial applications like TOPPS Baseball Cards are hitting marketing. The ad dollars to AR will by far eclipse social media and will drive this space to be the next massive wave with all of the hype and BS of other waves. Just close your eyes and think about one movie “BLADE RUNNER”. I rest my case. Scoblicious!

  6. AR is more than just visual it is also haptic. When you wear the iVest it taps your ribs when you need to turn to the right to follow the AR map. I was at Microvision three months ago in Redmond and since then they have raised a few “pounds”. The real synergy comes in with the laser projectors tied with AR and MRMR style dynamic mobile interfaces that give you remote control when you reach your target via AR waypoints. Logically.

  7. Augmented reality only becomes really useful (as opposed to “cool toy!”) when it's potentially on all the time. That means embedded in glasses or contact lenses.

  8. I don't work for Microsoft anymore. I don't know where that came from. Oh, yeah, I forgot the unwritten rule of writing about Apple. You must not even hint at anything negative about Apple products and if you do the faithful will jump on you and pummel you into submission. Sorry for forgetting the rule.

  9. Perhaps something like an iPhone connected to an Arduino Chip on your watch with subtle haptics wristband for non obtrusive AR marker alerts is in order? “Happy Hour 10-O-Clock” Pulses three times.

    It is not like we want to have a constant blast of AR “Twitter bits” blasting us all of the time. AR filters tied to pre-triggers, then you go to your iPhone for disply, that is until we have the iEyePhone … Just thinking out loud.

  10. Layar is not any longer restricted to any local region since its 2.0 version launch last Aug 17th.
    Some facts:
    - global distribution in Android Market
    - various global layers available, e.g. google local search, wikipedia, or my Tweeps Around layer (and Tweetmondo for that matter).
    - Layar is coming to iPhone soon, depending on Apple's 3.1 OS update and appstore approval, for more see

    (I'm not related with Layar, but happened to develop some layers for the app)

    More on my blog:

  11. While the entire post is talking about this on the iPhone, the first video is demonstrated on a Google G1 phone. Not going to suggest that the reason for that had anything to do with the accessibility of the network for either platform.

  12. Hey Mr. Scoble,

    thank you very much for linking to my blog. But I have to admit, that I am not covering a trend. Instead, I am doing everything in my limited power to cool down the hype (trend) and blog about real augmented reality. With all its limitations and promises. No works-better-with-google-maps-dork-vision and stuff. Things like that for example:

    Would love to keep in touch, best regards,


  13. We developed US layers on Layar with content from Yelp, Flickr, Wikipedia, Mazda, and Syracuse University iSchool, and created our own GoWeb3D EAT and DRINK layers. So eg, you hold up the mobile, select our Yelp layer, choose the category of data you wish to view and see Yelp reviewed places all around you. Then, click through to the reviews. Cool stuff and much more to come. Dave at GoWeb3D

  14. We've developed a bunch of US layers launched last week: Yelp, Wikipedia, FlickAR, EAT, DRINK. (The latter two … floating burgers, fries, pizzas, and beer in AR!) ;-)

  15. was writing about all this long before anybody else was and raising all the philosophical issues too, which would draw me to criticize often, because they are creepy.

    I hate the idea of the wire New Class being able to decide by flash mobbing on their i-Phones what should be said about a restaurant. It's like all those awful sites rating hotels or ratemyprof and such. They get domineered by one aggressive poster who attracts malice and then it sticks and people are intimidated from putting up anything else. So it transposes that Internet insolent into real time and overlays it on to reality such as to harm reality more with that insolence.

    I think it's going to be really something awful, this stuff.

  16. Here’s some good articles about the trend.

    Layar3, and others, discussed on

    The augmented reality blog is covering the trend.

    ReadWriteWeb writes about the first augmented reality app shipping yesterday.

    Mashable on top 6 augmented reality apps.

    TechCrunch on Layar.

    iphone is so excellent that i very like it

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