Augmented Reality (AR) is the buzz word of the year. At least it is in connection with the latest mobile gadgets. Everything these days is AR, even though most apps are not strictly AR. What is on the market at the moment is simply information overlaid on the camera viewfinder screen. There is no image recognition involved yet.
All it is information pulled from a server based on the location and displayed according to the orientation of the device. The device makes use of positioning system, either GPS or assisted through mobile phone antennas or wire less hotspot and it uses the ‘compass’ to define the devices orientation.
So what are currently the best applications available for the iPhone? As hinted in the first line, currently every service starts offering a AR visualisation. For example Brightkite, we featured on the blog HERE, was one of the first to make use of the Layar platform, but also others like urbanSpoon jumped on the train. Very early on applications for Wiki content were developed.
The first one to await Apples approval to go on the itunes store was Acrossair’s nearest tube. It was announce in August 2009, but then delayed as they had to wait for the iPhone 3.1 software update and was finally released in mid September 2009.
And I have to say for me this is still one of the best apps. It is the cleanest app you can probably find, Acrossair as a logo or brand can nowhere be found and it is all about the information. No clutter and no distraction, this is simply five star - download ">HERE, costs £1.19.
Image by urbanTick - iPhone screenshot Nearest Tube by Acrossair
Wikitude World Browser is the app for the Wikipedia content. It is similarly clean as the Nearest Tube app, but lakes the clarity by the POI’s (point of interests icons). They are tiny and all exactly the same. Four stars - the app is free, download HERE.
Image by urbanTick - iPhone screenshot Wikitude
iLiving by metaio, looks like a interesting app. I have not yet tried it, but it seems as if this one almost allows for the most interactive and truly AR joy. You can actually place furniture in the viewfinder. Through this you can find out if the new sofa fits with the curtains your mother in law has brought round yesterday night as a gift. It looks promising in terms of the narrative, but the 3D elements are horrible... However this could be an other five star - download HERE, costs £1.79.
Image by metaio - screenshots before and after as well as the object library
Peak.Ar by Salzburg Research is the outdoor and mountain specialist application. It give you the name and the height of the mountain and hills around you. Simple but nice as an app. It is free, but the design could be a bit sleeker. Four stars - download HERE for free.
Images by urbanTick - screenshot Peak.ar, you can see I live somewhere around Primrose Hill
AugMeasure by2020, is a AR app that helps you measure something when you don’t have a meter handy. As useful as the iHandy Level is suppose but why not. An app that actually has some hands on approach to it... it is free, four stars - download HERE for free.
Images by urbanTick - screenshot AugMeasure
TweetThru is a great twitter app that makes use of the AR API of the iPhone. However, it is not strictly AR in the sense of the rest of the application as it does actually not overlay information, but simply the text you type. Why would you want this, you might ask. Well it is really handy to see where you are going, if you are one of these people like me, constantly typing on the iPhone while walking on the street. Again five stars - download HERE for free.
Image by urbanTick - iPhone screenshot TweetThru
Even though it is not AR it is as much AR as the rest of the apps. This highlight the fact that actually it is all a bit of hype with little content. There is a whole range of games emerging too. But it is early days and you only get ridiculous stuff like first person shooter to gun down the person you see in the viewfinder (I am certain the developer has never thought of school shootings and stuff) or you can throw tomatoes, eggs or even spit at objects and people you can see through the camera lens.
The technology is great and it is impressive the first time you see it, but so far I haven’t found it useful. We are all still waiting for this cracking application to come along...
For a first run, you can have a go your self at information service using AR. There are a number of services and platforms emerging. Layar is one of them featured on the blog earlier HERE. But also Wikitude is offering or the Junaio platform.