An augmented reality browser is a program that runs on a mobile phone or handheld computer, and provides visual information to users. Augmented reality browsers connect with the built-in camera on a device, and overlay relevant information onto the display. These types of browsers may be used for interactive games, or can be used for business and shopping. An augmented reality browser bridges the gap between cyberspace and the real world, and combines information from both.
Once an augmented reality browser has been installed on a device, it is able to access a wide range of useful data. A browser on a modern smartphone, for instance, can interface with the device's Global Positioning System (GPS) location, a digital compass, and the video camera. The wireless data connection used by the device can also link the browser to information from the Internet. Using these resources, an augmented reality browser can combine the available data and present useful feedback to the user.
In a typical augmented reality application, the user may be walking down a busy city street. Based on information from the GPS and compass, the browser knows which direction the device is facing, and which landmarks are at that specific location. Video from the camera can be combined with online data. This allows the browser to display nearby restaurant reviews in real time, as an example. Unlike traditional Internet sites, an augmented reality browser can automatically update based on the user's location and physical viewpoint.
Augmented browser programs do not necessarily need to be based on location. Some applications use only camera images to gather information. If a user points a mobile phone camera at a poster or billboard, for instance, the software can identify the printed text. Based on this visual data, additional details can be overlayed on the screen. Product pricing or concert event dates are two examples of information that can be quickly accessed through augmented reality.
These types of browsers can also be used for entertainment. Some augmented reality browsers allow users to play with virtual characters in the real world. An augmented reality game can superimpose a computer-generated avatar who appears to be interacting with live video from the camera. Some games allow players to move their hands on front of the camera, and appear to be directly moving items or characters on the augmented screen. Other augmented reality games use specially marked real-world game pieces, and can track the position of each piece on an elaborate virtual game board.