Augmented reality travel apps pick up steam

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The Independent Online

Malaysia Airlines has developed an augmented reality application to help travelers on the go locate their nearest airport and flights - finally bringing an airline's contribution to the plethora of other augmented reality apps for travelers.

Following the examples of firms like and Las Vegas giant MGM Mirage, the airline's app allows users to point their iPhone in a certain direction to see the airports in the vicinity served by Malaysia Airlines.

The app then displays destinations and prices from that airport to various destinations, which are chosen by again moving the phone through 360 degrees in different directions - for a flight between Malaysia and London, for instance, users would simply need to point their iPhone to the northwest.

The airline says that the app can also direct users to nearby airports in conjunction with Google Maps.

Malaysia Airlines is one of the first airlines to release an augmented reality iPhone app and has again highlighted how useful the technology is likely to prove for travelers on the go, effectively removing the need to do research before setting out on a trip.

The key functionality of augmented reality - its ability to overlay information on top of a camera image - is being used by a growing number of travel booking sites, hotels and travel guides.

This melding of real-life views with digital information on screen is particularly useful in travel guides, allowing users to view information about individual landmarks or properties simply by pointing their phone at in the right direction.

By standing on the Las Vegas strip and using the Vegas Reality app, for instance, visitors to Las Vegas can pan around using their iPhone handsets to view data on the shows, nightclubs and casinos inside MGM Mirage's various hotels, without needing to go inside.

The iPhone and Android augmented reality apps from travel publishers Condé Nast Traveler and Lonely Planet can overlay information such as restaurants, hotels and attractions in eight US cities, providing instant local information for lost travelers.

In the future, the technology has the potential to be even more useful, allowing users to explore places without even being there - effectively a scaled up version of the augmented reality city guides produced by, in which users can move objects displayed through a webcam on their computer screen to explore destinations.

Travelers will also be able to travel lighter, safe in the knowledge that companies know what they'll want when they arrive, said George Collings, a digital planner at advertising firm HMDG.

"The idea of buying a two-year-old book to read about the best restaurants, museums or bars will become obsolete as consumers expect the latest information from expert brands to be instantly accessible in their pocket," he explained.

"We will see more companies offering push-alerts and targeted notifications to travellers while they are on their holiday."

See a demonstration of the Malaysia Airlines app: