Thursday, 27 August 2009

It's not just any AR it's Location Based Augmented Reality

There's a lot of talk out there at the moment on this subject, so I couldn't resist writing a few lines on it myself. Augmented reality has been around for some time, but with the introduction of smart phones with Cameras, GPS, built in compasses and acceleromters, it seems that AR is finally ready to hit the big time and find its way into the every day life of the mobile phone user.

For me there seems to be two distinct types of AR. The first is AR that uses fiducial markers, motion tracking and computer vision. These applications take a fair amount of processing power and are not really suited to mobile phones. An example of this type of AR can be seen here. The second is the Location Based AR. This seems to be driving the new interest in AR and there are a number of new Applications emerging for both Android devices and the iPhone. These types of AR applications don't need to use motion tracking or complicated computer vision systems. These applications use GPS and the built in compass of mobile devices to locate the distance and direction of POI (Points Of Interest). These points of interested are then displayed over the live camera view giving general information on the POI plus indications of its distance and direction. POIs can be anything, from twitter users, houses for sale, to interesting historical buildings.

One of the first AR applications for Android devices that i became aware of was Enkin, but since then Wikitude and Layar seem to be the two main front running Location based AR applications available for Android. Wikitude gives the user information on general points of interest around their present location, such as interesting historical buildings, while the examples on Layar show services giving details of houses for sales and nearby twitter users. Both websites seem to be offering APIs to allow third party developers to build their own versions of AR applicaitons.

AR is still commercially in it's first stages, but the possibilities seem almost limitless and who knows where future advances in technology could take this interesting area. For now I'm going to stick with Location based AR, and the compass, GPS , accelerometer and camera APIs in the Android developer docs. I'll let you know how it goes....

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