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The virtual world is getting closer to our everyday lives.

Augmented reality (AR) — adding imagery to a physical location — has been around for a while, but it required equipment that wasn’t always convenient to have available.

To get the effect, a headset and, occasionally, a wand were required.

Of course, there’s a time and place …

The most basic forms of AR have already become commonplace on smartphones.

Familiar examples are the apps available to provide instant information in the user’s immediate surroundings.

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Now, both Google and Apple are rolling out AR apps that are not only more convenient, they’re becoming ever more versatile:

  • Google’s platform is ARCore; and
  • Apple’s platform is ARKit.

They have subtle differences to the extent that choice becomes a matter of personal preference.

Here’s an ARKit app adding an accurate touch to ordering food:

Google rolled out ARCore in August, which is its second foray into AR software.

It introduced Tango in 2014, which is more of an industrial-strength version of AR.

Swedish furnishings giant IKEA was an AR pioneer, offering versions of it to customers since 2013.

Its activation used to require its catalog being placed in the vicinity of where a customer wanted to see it.

Now, all that’s needed is their website:

IKEA and other retailers should be lighting up idea bulbs for any e-commerce entrepreneur who’s offering physical products in their digital store.

What’s more, the tools to deploy AR apps are already here. It probably won’t be long before they become as do-it-yourself as building websites.

Stay tuned.

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