Your Augmented Reality Guide to Holiday Shopping

It’s that time of year again – time to break out your wallets and spend your hard earned cash on loved ones, and maybe even some not so loved ones. And as much as we all love this season of giving, let’s face it, holiday shopping can be a nightmare. Thankfully I’m here to help make this year’s holiday shopping not only easier, but also fun and futuristic. All you need is your iPhone!

So what is Augmented Reality? AR occurs when the line between what’s real and what’s computer generated is blurred because what we see, hear, feel and smell are being enhanced by technology. Engineers are able to pull graphics out of your TV or computer and integrate them into real-world situations. Developers of mobile applications have been using this technology for a couple of years and have exponentially advanced the levels of AR available to consumers.

Here are my favorite AR mobile apps to help get you through this year’s holiday shopping madness:

Heads Up Navigator Pro – Get the absolute most out of your location. Use your phone’s built-in camera to find a central shopping destination that allows you to get all your shopping completed in one area. Or use it to easily guide you to the store with the must-have gift of the year. Overlapping floating 3D labels are directly displayed on the environment around you. ($.99 with no advertisements or Free with some advertisements / iOS 3.1 or later)

Acrossair – Walking from store to store, carrying tons of bags and fighting over the last “it” gift of the season can be really exhausting. Need a cocktail or a bite to eat? Use this app, which is integrated with Yelp, Stella Bar Finder and Wikipedia to find the perfect spot to take a break from shopping. Set your search range with the user interface and this app will give you information about all the locations near you. You can even share with your friends via email, Flickr and Twitter! (Free / iOS 3.1 or later)

Quick Writer – Need to answer an email or send a text but you’re worried about bumping into a store display or the mob of people walking about the mall? With this AR app there’s no more worry – you’ll be able to walk and type at the same time without ever taking your eyes off the screen! This app actually lets you see the view beyond your phone while typing. Whatever your built-in camera sees, you will see. ($1.99 / iOS 3.0 or later)

Car Finder – Never lose your car after hours of shopping again! This app is a must for anyone who has ever forgotten where he or she parked, or has been issued a ticket for going over the parking time limit. With this app, your camera viewfinder can see an overlay of your car’s location, the direction and the distance you are away. It even keeps a timer that will send you meter alerts. ($.99 / iOS 4.0 or later)

SnapShop Showroom – So a woman is out shopping and sees a Lay-Z-Boy that her husband would love for his man cave. At the same time, this other guy is shopping and sees a vanity for his daughter’s new room. With this app, shoppers will never have to guess again whether or not a piece of furniture will fit and/or match the receiver’s space. You simply take your phone to the room in question, launch the app, choose a piece of furniture from a catalog and tap your screen to use the menu options. The AR technology will let you visualize the furniture in your real world environment. (Free / iOS 3.1 or later)

As this technology grows, Augmented Reality will open many new doors for marketers. Imagine being able to point your cell phone at any product at any store at any point in the world, and you’re instantly shown information such as a sales sheet, demonstrations, customer reviews, competitor pricing, alternative products, and one-click purchasing ability. To say the least, mobile AR could change the way we shop just like the Internet changed the way we communicate. Who knows, maybe it will be the game-changer of the 2012 holiday season! Is your business ready?

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