Smarter phones with high-quality screens, faster processors and built-in GPS chips are pushing developers to indulge in wild experiments. Augmented reality — a group of technologies that marry the virtual with the real world — is finally graduating from being an idle scientific curiosity to more of an everyday experience. (Related GigaOM Pro report: “Augmented Reality: Lots of Promise, Lots of Hurdles” — subscription required.) For me, the usefulness of augmented reality is illustrated by a set of applications from Soundwalk, an audio tour company that is based in New York and Paris. The company recently released iPhone applications that combine the audio tours with real-world locations in cities such as Paris (iTunes Store link).
After installing the app, you can get an hour-long tour, recorded in the voice of a French celebrity. There are cues to find starting points and get practical info about places to visit as well as interactive maps that use geo-localization. These applications, which till recently have worked on the iPhone, also are available on Android.
In addition to these walking tours, Soundwalk released a free app called 24 Hours: The Starck Mix, a custom 24-hour soundtrack, selected, arranged, composed and mixed by French designer Philippe Starck. It is seriously cool and mind-bending. Grab it from the iTunes store. Whenever the listener presses play, the mix will start from the exact time it is in his current time zone, no matter where in the world he is that day.