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See the world through your cellphone screen

Posted by: fastforward




If you've been reading between the lines in my recent blog posts you may have noticed that I am partial to Research in Motion’s little goldmine, the BlackBerry. Yes, I admit, I am one of those annoying people Mobile Kugel mentioned, who only look up from their phone when the battery is dead. So, like many CrackBerry addicts/enthusiasts around the globe, I was interested in BlackBerry’s latest offering – the recently announced Bold 9900 and 9930.

Even I can jump off the RIM bandwagon for a moment and admit that the new models don’t seem to be too revolutionary, especially considering the advances made by competitors like Apple. Many commentators are focusing on the new OS, more powerful processor and decreased size of the new phones, but the new feature that interests me the most is the increased integration of location-based applications. The new models are the first BlackBerry phones to include the built-in compass needed for augmented reality applications, and come preloaded with popular augmented reality app Wikitude.

Augmented reality is a concept which may seem very futuristic at first glance - particularly in South Africa, where many people may not have even heard of the term due to minimal usage of the technology (unlike overseas, where the software is already even being used for marketing products for businesses like Starbucks and McDonalds). Augmented reality involves a computer-generated layer, which is incorporated over a view of the real, physical world to add more information about what the user is seeing. This is generally done using a mobile phone, which allows reality to be seen through the phone’s camera and augmented by an application like Wikitude.

Augmented reality allows for potentially unlimited contextual information about a location to be edited, updated and shared. Users can leave geographical tags about anything from poor service at a particular restaurant to additional information about a tourist attraction, which will allow the next person to learn more about their location through the information left by others. As futuristic as it may sound, by including pre-loaded augmented reality apps or the built-in compass the technology requires on their mobile devices, companies like Apple and BlackBerry are ensuring that augmented reality will become more and more popular in the not-so-distant future.

The Wikitude app has been available for download for the iPhone, Android and Nokia for a while, but including the app on every one of its new phones is quite a resounding endorsement of the future importance of augmented reality from RIM. The application is completely integrated with other applications on the device, particularly BlackBerry Messenger (BBM). For example, the new models allow users to send their location via BBM and for their contacts to receive a little snapshot of a map showing where their friend is at the moment. The app also allows for contacts to meet each other in the real world through augmented reality, as their phones allow them to be found using the geotagging software.

As augmented reality software becomes more mainstream and easily available in the future, it seems we are more likely to see people walking around looking at the world through their phones.


Above photo courtesy of Wikitude and used under Creative Commons license.
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