Why you should care

Because catching them all is just the tip of the iceberg. 

Never heard of augmented reality before “Pokémon Go”? It’s played second fiddle to virtual reality, but the public is finally catching on to the potential seen by savvy entrepreneurs and do-gooders. It could aid the disabled, translate languages and educate a new workforce, says University of Washington researcher Ryan Calo, who led an interdisciplinary study on the subject last year. It also presents distinct legal challenges, based upon privacy, property and liability concerns. Here are just some of the ways augmented reality is capable of changing your day-to-day … today.

1. Fix your car and learn a new skill.

Making that toasty butt warmer run smoothly is harder than it looks, and it’s also harder than ever for amateur mechanics to fix all the things that can go awry. Cue BMW and Google, which have each created augmented reality glasses that diagnose problems and explain how to replace and repair engine parts. Turning us all into handymen is just the start — augmented training could help plumbers learn their trade without touching a plunger or wrench, or teach inmates how to operate complicated machinery from their jail cells.

2. See what’s on the menu, everywhere around you.

Walking down the street, looking for something good to eat, you lift your camera and bam … you suddenly have meat-seeking vision. Yelp’s Monocle tool shows reviews of restaurants as you pass them. While most users still pick a place before they go out, the tool is useful in unfamiliar neighborhoods or in countries where a different language is spoken, says Yelp product manager James Hurley. It’s never been easier to point and chow.

3. Look at the heavens — and finally know what’s in front of you.

Scan Sky Guide at the starry night and it traces, names and describes the constellations, plus the app lets you search by formation. The experience is especially stunning on a tablet, and it’s a safe bet that museums, city tours and art exhibits will adopt similar programs, too.

4. Be someone’s eyes. Or borrow some, if need be.

With the Be My Eyes app, a blind person can send an image to a person with sight, who has volunteered to help answer their question. One day, machines will do the volunteer’s job, says Calo, and the same principle could be used in giving the hearing-impaired subtitles for their life.

5. Picture life-changing purchases … before committing.

Sometimes you’ve just got to see it to believe. If it’s buying furniture, the IKEA catalog lets you pick, say, a couch and place it virtually in your home, although user reviews say the app can be buggy. (The company told OZY it changed its AR supplier recently, which affected its goal of improving the feature). Like tats? The InkHunter app will let you visualize that new tattoo design ahead of time, helping you decide whether it’s a good or bad look. Unless it’s a face tattoo. Then it’s always a bad choice.

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