If anywhere could be expected to be in the vanguard of the imminent Augmented Reality (AR) revolution then it would have to be Japan and where else but in the nation's myriad department stores?

AR machines are already on the streets of Japan, being used to help lazy shoppers try on clothes virtually and find out more about products from a range of shops under the same roof.

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Printing and display specialist Toppan is using an AR machine to encourage shoppers at one chain of stores to virtually browse products and sign up for reward points programmes.

Meanwhile, trading firm Furutani Sangyou has installed its 'Magical Mirror' in a department store in Tokyo.

The machine superimposes clothes from various retailers in the store on a live video image of anyone standing in front of the onboard camera.

While the idea is to save time trying clothes on, it's really more of a proof-of-concept for now, although big business will doubtless be interested in seeing how AR fares in the eyes of consumers before pressing on with more ambitious schemes.