Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Reader Question - Augmented Reality on Mobile Devices

Last week I got the following email message from a reader who had attended the Online Impact 2010 Event held at Springfield Technical Community College on January 14:

Hi Gordon,
I wanted to let you know I really enjoyed Online Impact. It was great and I look forward to the next one. During the second panel session you described a cell phone application where a user can look at the camera and have information display on the screen about what the person is looking at. This sounds pretty interesting. I just got an iPhone, can you point me to any specific applications I can try?
Thanks again, JJ

Thanks for the question JJ and really glad you enjoyed Online Impact, it was a great event and we're meeting next week to start planning the next one! The technology I mentioned is called augmented reality - basically layering digital information onto the real world. One of the most commonly known augmented reality applications are the yellow lines you see on televised football games indicated how far a team has to go for a first down. This technology has been around for a while - it was first used on September 27, 1998 by Sportvision and ESPN during the broadcast of a Bengals and Ravens game.

Mobile devices (like cell phones) can take this technology one step further, allowing developers to create applications that combine the built in camera, GPS, and compass to layer virtual data over the real world. We're just starting to see these kinds of applications for mobile devices like iPhones and Android phones. Here's some examples courtesy of a recent piece in Wired Magazine. I've included short YouTube video links of each application in action. Some of these apps are currently available and some are in production.

iPhone Apps
Yelp Monocle - uses iPhone camera and compass to place Yelp ratings over a live view of establishments. Demo video linked here.
iPhone ARider - Streams Google Maps from your iPhone to a special eyepiece you mount on your bike helmet. Demo video linked here.
Acrossair Nearest Subway - Overlays directions and subway line information on the iPhone's camera view. Demo video linked here.

Android (Google OS) Apps
TwittARound - Through the device camera, shows you location-stamped tweets (available from certain Twitter clients) from others nearby. Demo video linked here.
Layer Reality Browser - Point the Android camera at a cityscape and this application coughs up data - everything from the location of bus stations and skate parks to real estate prices. Demo video linked here.

Coming Soon
TAT Augmented ID - You knew this one is coming(!) Using face-recognition software from Polar Rose, this application can scan a strangers face and reveal their contact info and profile stats. Demo video linked here.

We're just in the infancy stages of this technology. Check some of these out and keep watching places like Wired and this blog for new information!

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