With the iPhone OS 3.1 launch set to debut next month, I wanted to explore the features that are going to help make some AR apps succeed over others.  We’re going to be seeing a spike of releases since many have been working towards this moment waiting for the iPhone to become AR enabled, so its a good time to get those apps in tip-top shape. 

And while I’m personally smartphone agnostic, these are features that should be present on any app, no matter what the platform.  But the OS3.1 release will connect the hype of AR with the hype of the iPhone, so that’s why we need to talk about app features now.  Call it Hype2.0 if you’d like.

And now for the features:

1 – Solutions Not Gimmicks

The best products and services are solutions to a problem.  Going to your webcam to open up a 3D version of the product has lost its luster as a tired gimmick.  Find a reason that augmented reality can be useful for your customers.  And if you’re a car maker looking to use AR, listen to Rouli

Don’t be like Always, the feminine hygiene company, please…


2 – Social Connections

The reason these social connectors like Twitter and Facebook work is because they allow us to be nosy neighbors seeing what next person is doing.  The term “Keeping up with the Jonses” applies here.  Give your app a way to connect other people in creative and interesting ways.  Even if its seeing the high score along with a picture of you dodging a cannonball.


 3 – App Search

Google dominates the search wars because they’re the best at it.  Many functions of AR require pulling information from the data sphere and if it gets hijacked by spammers then the app will quickly lose its purpose.  No one wants to pull up a restaurant layer to find a nice place to eat in a new town and get a porn layer instead while your three smiling children peer over your shoulder. 



4 – Alacrity Wins

I could say apps need to be quick, but they need to be more than that.  The Webster’s definition of alacrity is “promptness in response” or “cheerful readiness.”  Apps should anticipate what the user wants and get it quickly.  If it takes 10 seconds for the camera to identify where its at so you can decide which way to walk, no one is going to use it.  If the processor is too slow, move your heavy lifting to servers off the smartphone.  Life moves quickly, your app should move at the same pace.  


5 – Unique Style

If you want your business to grow, your style should be tasteful and easily recognizable.  When people see your products they should instantly know who created it.  Already the Layar symbol has stuck into my head as a good product identifier. 













6 – Not Another Vista!

If I let my kids cook dinner for themselves they make cereal.  My wife will take six hours to make an exquisite dinner that uses every dish in the house, including a few of our neighbors.  The kids eat cereal because its easy to do.  My kids are your users.  They’re not going to make Chateaubriand no matter how good it tastes.  So make your apps simple to use. 



7 – Save the Trees, Please

Please don’t make me print out another marker to see your version of augmented reality.  We might be able to say that AR is a green product, but for all the papervision markers we’ve had to print out.   


8 – Now With Less Spam

 For the AR apps that allow user added content, we need to make sure we’re not besieged with spammers like the regular Internet.  While this might be an impossible request, at least consider the spammers in your product design. 




































9 – Tell Me A Story

Augmented reality was built by programmers, but it needs artists to grow.  Don’t forget to tell me a story and engage my emotions.  AR is a wonderful new medium with potential to tell stories in ways never told before.  The story can exist all around us or even in our living room. 


10 – FUN!!!

Now matter what the purpose of your app, even if its a serious one like saving the rain forest.  Don’t forget to make it fun (and maybe include a little magic).


Thomas K. Carpenter

Thomas K. Carpenter is a full time contemporary fantasy author with over 50 independently published titles. His bestselling, multi-series universe, The Hundred Halls, has over 25 books and counting. His stories focus on fantastic families, magical academies, and epic adventures.

  • Great post, Thomas – you captured the essence of what it takes to succeed with a new technology – and especially with AR: it’s not the technology – it’s the experience.

  • Excellent post !! wonderfully explained. This is what i was looking for. The features used in AR technology may not used at high rate but it is meant for future where many such features will be used like anything.

    Great post , keep it up !!!

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