With the the oncoming flood of powerful devices such as the iPhone, it’s almost certain that we’re about to make the leap into an augmented reality. I’ve predicted we’ll have common-place AR apps in early 2009. My guess is that Google will introduce a Maps-based application; possibly one that displays landmark-labels.
UPDATE, 2009: I was right that a public consumer AR Maps application would debut around early 2009: the Wikitude AR Travel App displays hovering labels over buildings and landmarks when you point your phone at them. I was almost right about Google’s part; it runs on Google Android phones—but was created by independent developers.
Here’s a video giving us a taste of what’s possible—an iPhone app capable of displaying 10 frames per second in live-video realtime tracking. It was made using version 4.4 of the ARToolkit, created by ARToolworks.
Gizmodo mentions that this won’t be found in the Appstore anytime soon, and quotes the creators:
It’s running slowly, but once Apple releases a video [API for the iPhone] SDK, performance should get to 20-30 frames/second. We’ve all seen the awesome 3D games that can run on the iPhone, so fast AR applications will also be possible in the future, with all that multi-touch goodness thrown in as well.
I’m thinking there must be someone already brewing AR apps of some sort. Evernote is close, letting you take a picture of text (e.g. a poster or DVD cover, etc.) and making the text searchable. Location-based social applications are also on a roll, displaying people in your area and what they’re up to.
With the iPhone’s 3G version there’s nothing that stands in the way; there’s bandwidth, GPS location and then the phone’s accelerometer. These combined could be used to make a label-application like I mentioned above: The accelerometer could track which way you’re facing and when you turn, the GPS where you are and the 3G could provide a fast and live connection to something like Google’s maps.
I doubt AR is an area that Apple hasn’t considered conquering. Even though it currently seems they’d rather want to use the phone’s accelerometer to make lightsaber sounds.
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