I’m a huge fan of the augmented reality (AR) concept and the potential it provides. With devices becoming more powerful and the technology in place to make it a reality, AR is at the forefront of mobile possibilities.
A shining example of which is a new startup called “Tagwhat,” which made its public debut today to offer what’s its calling “a new augmented reality (AR) experience that fuses the very best of mobile, augmented reality, and location-based social networking services for everyday use and appeal.”
At it’s core, Tagwhat is a fully functional social network, layered on top of the physical world and accessed by “tags” through an innovative augmented reality experience. By simply holding up the camera view of a mobile device (iPhone or Android), geo-contextual tags from pre-selected friends and community members become visible.
For example, just walking down the street Tagwhat reveals a wealth of relevant information, discussions, and deals — such as a coupon for a nearby establishment, a discussion thread for a meet-up with friends, or a restaurant review about a sushi place around the corner.
The concept of bridging the gap between mobile social networking and physical world engagement is a powerful combination, and one that signifies the future. Tagwhat has done so using a patent-pending augmented reality technology that lets users leave behind digital crumbs (tags) for any location, place or thing, anywhere in the world for friends and followers to discover. Each marker is an interactive social object, and can include direct action links to email, phone, SMS, photos, URL’s, cross-posting to Twitter, Facebook, and more. As a result, friends are able to easily interact and share information with one another with the added benefit of location and AR.
Suddenly, “checking in” at a particular coffee shop, dropping pictures at several bar locations from last night’s pub crawl, or creating blog entries from personal favorite locations as they are discovered or re-visited, opens up a whole new realm of possibilities. With a single click, users are able to easily let friends know where they’ll be in 5 minutes, then get turn-by-turn directions to the tagged destination, and flip through photos of a friends’ night out on the way over.
What’s interesting to me is the fact that Tagwhat incorporates the acts of “checking-in” by way of tagging and including digital content, as well as following businesses, friends, etc. in a Twitter-like fashion- effectively combining the attributes of Twitter and social networking startups like Foursquare and Gowalla, layered on top of a completely new physical world/AR/location-based experience. It’s pretty impressive really.
Within the Tagwhat network, marker streams come alive with the digital crumbs and content a member chooses to follow from networks of friends, community members, and businesses. In addition, for a more expansive experience users can reach beyond their existing network and search for specific content and users by keywords. If your interested in discovering restaurants, for example, follow local culinary aficionados and merge their AR experience into yours.
Tagwhat’s technology represents a shift from the static “Web 1.0” world of AR browsers to the participatory interaction of “Web 2.0.” Tagwhat is ‘create-and-share’ mobile AR, and is the first mobile augmented reality distribution system where anyone, not just developers, can create their own AR content and share with their friends anywhere in the world, in seconds, for free.
To monetize, Tagwhat will undoubtedly utilize a hyper-local advertising model, similar to Foursquare, whereby local businesses can offer promotions, offers and deals to users who “follow” them or merge their AR experience with that of the businesses they like most. Users can find their favorite stores and follow them for the latest deals and events. Think of it as Foursquare on steroids.
I’m quite impressed by what Tagwhat has created, even after playing with it for only a short period of time. Even though it’s just the beginning and a user-base is still evolving, I see the startup making huge waves in the near future.