It’s most unlike me to contribute to the rumour frenzy around an Apple launch, but i wanted to put a marker down about Augmented Reality. At Talk About Local we have been doing a lot of work with phone based AR in the field, mainly using iOS devices.
It’s clear that AR apps stress the phone more than almost anything else – the GPS, camera, 3G and CPU all hammering away. My iPhone4 gets hot when using Layar or Aurasma for a time and iPhone3s really struggle. iPads though, work great – much more grunt. If you really want to stretch the hardware and show what a phone can do that your competitors can’t then AR is a prime battleground. Indeed, Nokia’s new Lumia 920 phone majors on AR (although it isn’t clear yet where the content will come from). I’m also struck that Blackberry (remember them) use Wikitude AR to advertise their new handsets.
Apple filed a patent on AR earlier in the year. And if you have been to an Apple store in a quiet moment recently the sales staff are keen to show you the Apple Store app that reads barcodes very snappily, even if the back end sometimes goes wrong.
But, and it’s a big but, the content for AR at present is fairly weak – mainly bits of often well crafted but ultimately empty marketing stuff. Talk About Local has been exploring new ways for local bloggers to get their content into AR environment via a simple RSS feed, we’ve even demonstrated it on BBC TV.
But Apple have the new Apple Maps service up their sleeve. One of the strengths of geo-triggered AR is it’s marvelous ability to show you things around you that aren’t necessarily in your immediate field of vision. It can help you break out of your tunnel to your destination and explore more serendipitous things, in a flaneur walk sort of way. Satnav, by eschewing the trad map display for a simple ’3D view’ is part way down this track, but focuses on the tunnel.
So Apple Maps teamed up with the processing power of a new iPhone with baked-in AR could see a fascinating leap forward for AR in general.
Of course Apple could differentiate itself from Google by embracing third party geo-tagged content and rescuing us all from the dreaded Starbucks Street of closed AR mobile search environments culled from tired corporate listings. Or even try some sort of ‘apple map store’, where you could buy in map layers – but again they would have to be good third party content. If Apple Maps essentially just gives us a fancy satnav then it might be a missed opportunity. If it gives us AR native to the handset, baked into the OS then it could be a game changer.
Anyway, we’ll know in a couple of weeks and you can tell me if this post is fluffy iphone link bait of the sort that i should be ashamed of or a cogent contribution to the debate on the new wonder product (ducks for cover).