After launching various country-specific versions of it’s augmented reality-based navigation app in Europe, Wikitude today launched its first version for the North American market with Wikitude Drive for Android ($14.13). Wikitude Drive offers an interesting twist on the normal turn-by-turn navigation app, as it doesn’t show a map on the screen. Instead, you see a live video on the road lines on the road that tell you where you need to go. This, says Wikitude, allows you to focus on the road, even when you are looking at the GPS and is hence safer than your regular turn-by-turn GPS unit.
Augemented reality was one of the most overused buzzwords of the year, but for the most part, the applications we saw weren’t really augmenting reality. Instead, like Layar and others, they take a phone’s camera picture, GPS coordinates and compass heading and provide users with an overlay of nearby sights and shops. For some apps – especially stargazing apps like Star Walk – this is fine, but for most use cases, it’s not really useful. Another type of augmented reality (AR) app that’s hot right now uses paper markers and replaces them with 3D animation on your phone’s screen – even Hallmark is getting in this business now, but it’s more of a gimmick than a useful application of AR. The real promise of AR reaches far beyond this, however.