Augment reality has always been cool, but it's never been too practical for extended use. Crazy processor demands chew up battery power and deliver a workable experience, but not one that can last. Metaio aims to but an end to that with the first ever dedicated augmented-reality chip, and it's coming as soon as the end of this year.

Called the AREngine, the AR chip is set to debut in ST-Ericsson phones starting later this year, acting as a hardware solution to the resource problems extended AR can cause. The aim is to enable all-day, passive AR so that lifting up your phone to serve as a techno-window for the world becomes both easy, and second nature.

Metaio is, of course, bullish on the future of the chip and the AR capability it'll enable. "The AREngine will do for Augmented Reality what the GPU did years ago for the gaming industry," CTO Peter Meier says in the release announcing the chips. And with any luck, he's right.

Having a dedicated chip for AR applications will definitely unlock a new kind of power, but whether or not it's a crazy, world-altering shift is going to depend on who makes use of them. The upcoming ST-Ericsson phones should serve as a good showcase, but there's no telling what phones they'll actually be, and whether or not they'll be noteworthy enough on their own to snag any sort of market-share for the AREngine to thrive on. Still, dedicated AR power is nothing to sneeze at, so long as it gets picked up by someone big for something cool. [TechCrunch]