A new iPhone reality
science breakthroughs 2012 iphone augmented reality

Believe it or not, our iPhones are underused, says Chris Curran, principal and chief technologist in PwC's advisory practice. "These smartphones have high bandwidth connections. They've got GPS, a compass, and an accelerometer. High definition camera displays, a video camera, a speaker, and a microphone."

Some companies are starting to address this problem by linking the capabilities of smartphones and tablets to augment the actual world. Yelp was one of the first to unveil an application, back in 2009, that uses GPS to layer a map of recommended restaurants on top of the phone's camera view.

This past year has heralded new augmented reality advances. For example, developer 13th Lab released an augmented reality application for Minecraft, a game that lets users alter a digital world. The app lets users place the virtual objects that they build, via a phone camera, into the real world.

Also this year, says Curran, companies have started to realize that augmented reality could be helpful for more than just games. Curran says he has spoken with health care companies to figure out how to use data from people's smartphones to predict how diseases spread.

  @FortuneMagazine - Last updated December 31 2012 10:02 AM ET
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