The Age Of Augmented Reality

Forget Virtual Reality. Augmented Reality has just debuted, in an Android phone near you.

Sure, you already incorporated Google Maps in your life, and can’t now remember the last time you left the house without first making a Google Map to your destination. If you’re even more hip, you check Google Maps on the go, thanks to the mobile connection on your Iphone.

You never get lost anymore, and you smile with a slightly disdainful sympathy at the sight of those confused people swirling around in the street in search of the new Japanese restaurant that you got perfectly pinpointed in your screen. You’re located, you know where you’re going, and you never loose your cool. How could it get any better than that?

Well, it just did. If you think you’re on top of things with your Google-mapped Iphone, and you want to preserve the feeling, you better not look at the guy at your right. Because if you do, you may note that he’s looking at you with the same smile that you reserve for those poor devils who still recur to the pre-historic technic of asking people on the street for directions. And you may get that disorientating feeling you thought it was now banned forever.

Now, don’t get upset. There’s a simple reason for that insufferably annoying look in his face. He’s just experimenting with the new Wikitude AR (that stands for Augmented Reality) Travel Guide application for the Android. And he’s having a blast with it.

Wikitude AR is a recently released application for the Android mobile platform that works based on Wikipedia and Panoramio. According to the info provided for Mobilizy, the Austrian company behind it, it has a great set of features, enabling you to search for landmarks next to your location and get pictures and information about them on the spot.

But what really sets Wikitude apart and makes it a potential game-changer is that it allows you to see that information as you’re looking at the spot through the phone. Remember the Terminator vision, with all that information appearing as he looked at stuff? Well, it’s pretty much like that, except that it isn’t implanted. Yet.

Of course the application can only display info that was already georeferenced. Wikitude’s Augmented Reality mode works by checking the GPS coordinates and evaluating the direction at which you’re looking to present information that was georeferenced around those coordinates in that direction (say, 48° 51′ 29″ North and 2° 17′ 40″ East – if you’re wondering, that’s the location of the Eiffel Tower in Paris).

So, if you had, for instance, the IceHotel georeferenced, and you went there in December, you could point the phone at it and a caption would pop out on your screen informing you that was the IceHotel, that it had 60 rooms and an Absolut bar, etc, etc. Pretty cool stuff.

However, if you went there in August, and you pointed the phone at the location where the hotel was (it melts in the Spring), the caption would still pop out, although there was nothing there but empty space. Unless, of course, somebody had removed the georeference, or changed it to “We’ll come back in the Winter”.

Point is that the application doesn’t really recognize what’s there, but rather the GPS coordinates. So it’s not quite a magic ball, and it still has some way to go to that awesome Terminator view. But it does seem to be an impressive progress, and one that is sure to further ignite the already red-hot mobile market.


2 Responses to “The Age Of Augmented Reality”

  1. 1 pbre November 25, 2008 at 1:07 am

    Hello, Mobilizy is actually an Austrian company. Not an Australian. maybe you can change that. Regards, Ph

  2. 2 argosmedia November 25, 2008 at 1:39 am

    It’s already corrected. I apologize for the error – maybe the palm tree on Wikitude’s logo set me off to the wrong latitude…
    Anyway, thanks for pointing it out to me.

    Argos Media

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