Entries in compass (1)


Augmented Reality

Apple iPhone Apps reports on new iPhone features, attributing credit to an anonymous leak from inside Apple. I would like to focus on one specific feature. They report, with skepticism:

-Revolutionary combination of the camera, GPS, compass, orientation sensor, and Google maps

The camera will work with the GPS, compass, orientation sensor and Google maps to identify what building or location you have taken a picture of. We at first had difficulties believing this ability. However, such a “feature” is technically possible. If the next generation iPhone was to contain a compass then all of the components necessary to determine the actually plane in space for an image taken. The GPS would be used to determine the physical location of the device. The compass would be used to determine the direction the camera was facing. And the orientation sensor would be used to determine the orientation of the camera relative to the gravity. Additionally the focal length and focus of the camera could even assist is determining the distance of any focused objects in the picture. In other words, not only would the device know where you are, but it could determine how you are tilting it and hence it would know EXACTLY where in space your picture was composed. According to our source, Apple will use this information to introduce several groundbreaking features. For example, if you were to take a picture of the Staples Center in Los Angeles, you will be provided with a prompt directing you to information about the building, address, and/or area. This information will include sources such as wikipedia. This seems like quite an amazing service; and a little hard to believe, however while the complexity of such a service may be unrealistic, such is actually feasible with the sensors onboard the next generation iPhone.

And why “unrealistic”? Every piece of this technology already exists in the wild. This is not a great technological leap. This is merely smart convergence.

There are already two applications on the Google Android platform that have these features. One is a proof-of-concept called Enkin, developed by Max Braun and Rafael Spring (students of Computational Visualistics from Coblenz Germany, currently doing robotics research at Osaka University in Japan). The second, Wikitude by Mobilizy, is already in full-blown commercial release (an Austrian company, founded by Philip Breuss-Schneeweis and Martin Lechner).



It is only one short step further to let users geo-tag their photos. Many social photo/map applications available for the iPhone already incorporate such a feature. Building this into the realtime viewfinder would not be a great challenge. By example, the proof-of-concept for this already exists in the form of Microsoft’s Photosynth (silverlight browser plugin required).

Social Media apps could tap into this utility to network members in real space. At the most basic level, Facebook and/or LinkedIn apps could overlay member’s with their name and profile information.

The next logical extension of this will be to place the information directly into your field of vision.

The OOH marketing opportunities are immense. Recent campaigns for General Electric in the US, and the Mini Cooper in Germany show where this is going. Suddenly the work done by Wayne Piekarski at the University of South Australia’s Wearable Computer Lab is no longer so SciFi (now being commercialized as WorldViz). At January’s CES, Vuzix debuted their new 920AV Model of eyewear, which includes an optional stereoscopic camera attachment to combine virtual objects with your real environment. Originally scheduled for a Spring release, their ship-date has now been pushed back to Fall (their main competitor, MyVu, does not yet have an augmented reality model). If the trend finally takes, expect to see more partnerships with eyewear manufactures.

Initially through the viewfinder of your smartphone, and eventually through the lens of your eyewear, augmentation will be the point of convergence for mobile-web, local-search, social media, and geo-targeted marketing. Whether Apple makes the full leap in one gesture with the release of their Next-Gen iPhone, or gets there in smaller steps depends upon both the authenticity/acuracy of this leak, and the further initiative of third-party software and hardware developers to take advantage of it. Innovation and convergence will be the economic drivers that reboot our economy.

EDIT: The only capability Apple actually needs to add to the iPhone in order for this proposed augmented reality to be implemented is a magnetometer (digital compass). Google Android models already have this component. Charlie Sorrel of WIRED Magazine’s Gadget Lab has separately reported this feature through leaks of a developer screen shot, and on May 22nd Brian X. Chen, also reporting for WIRED Magazine’s Gadget Lab, put the probability of a magnetometer being included in the new iPhone at 90%. Once the iPhone has an onboard compass, augmented reality features will begin to appear, whether through Apple’s own implementation or from third party developers.

UPDATE: Since the time of this writing, the iPhone 3GS has been released, and it does indeed include an magnetometer.