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App Friday: Augmented Reality getting more interesting by the day

It’s easy to get excited about augmented reality technology, especially if you’re a card-carrying geek like me. But sometimes you have to check yourself: shouldn’t it be the apps and content using the technology that are worth getting excited about, rather than the tech itself?

Thankfully, that’s starting to happen. My interest was tickled this morning by the launch of a simple game called ARBasketball on the App Store. It gets you to print out a PDF from the developer’s website, lay it on your desk and then point your iPhone at it to pop up a virtual basket and play.

It’s a novelty, sure. But with Paper Toss so popular on iPhone, who’s to say a basketball version with your actual desk as the background can’t be fun too? Also, there’s no danger of knocking over your cuppa, unlike a real miniature basketball toy…

Another cool AR thing announced today is new content for the Gorillaz Plastic Beach iPhone app, to tie in with the band’s gigs next week in London.

Special markets will be positioned around The O2 venue, and when fans fire up the app and point their iPhones at the markers, they’ll see pirate ships, submarines, Gorillaz characters and even Plastic Beach itself.

In this case, it’s cool because the use of augmented reality and animated characters fits perfectly with the band. I’m guessing it would be less engaging with virtual gladioli at a Morrissey gig. Although…

Meanwhile, AR company Layar said yesterday that it now has more than one million active users of its Layar Reality Browser app, and more than 1,200 published layers. And even the UK government is getting interested in AR, asking startups to pitch their technology to its most senior counter-terrorist staff.

It’s still early days for augmented reality, and there is still a lot of hype around the area. Even so, ARBasketball and the Gorillaz show that there is plenty of interesting innovation going on in the AR world.

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