Whenever Japan does something new in tech, the cute factor is almost always taken into account. The same holds true for augmented reality, as Yahoo! Japan has just revealed its take on AR map navigation with a new AR Mode.
Like other versions of AR mapping that we've seen before, like Blippar's AR City, the app's new feature allows you to enter a destination and watch as bold guides are overlaid over reality, directing you to your destination with ease.
The addition of this AR layer to existing map apps is especially useful if you're among those who have trouble following map directions (let's face it, not even GPS can give some people a sense of direction).
But as with all apps, even utility apps, if you can find a way to add gamification, you'll probably snag a lot more users. Yahoo! Japan figured this out and decided to add an unbearably cute mascot creature who greets you once you've reached your destination. That virtual hug is a pretty strong incentive to use the AR Mode for those who might only be casually familiar with AR.
Another fun design element added by the company shows you what are supposed to be your own footprints behind you as you make your way along your path. Yeah, that's pretty cute too.
Nevertheless, US companies should take note of Yahoo! Japan's approach. Yes, AR can be incredibly practical as a utility tool, and that should be enough. But if you make AR fun, no matter how pedestrian the app's function, you've already won half the battle.