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The Augmented Future of the Smartphone

Posted on Monday, February 28 @ 11:28:52 Eastern by


Mobile augmented reality sounds like something straight out of Minority Report, except for your smartphone. But Jay Wright, Director of Qualcomm, an American wireless telecommunications research and development company, suggests that the full and sweeping integration between augmented reality (AR) and mobile technology is not as far off as some would think. In a GDC panel (bright and early at 10 this Monday morning), he showcased applications, tutorials, and samples of what developers could soon be using in the pursuit of this technological dream.

Fundamentally, augmented reality is about laying graphics and text over live video, like highlighting the yellow line of scrimmage on a football field on TV. Most of the augmented reality on mobile is in the form of mapping GPS data, like where the nearest Starbucks is from where you are. But that's a narrow viewpoint: What about taking your phone and recording or scanning a box of Cheerios and being able to see relevant information on your phone? Or what about making a game board or a Barbie dollhouse come to life virtually?

Another cool idea is placing photos, notes, and graffiti in the real world and then posting them on Facebook for friends to explore or find. Instructional uses will likely be on the forefront as well - using your phone as a mobile user manual that will tell you how to use, say, a phone in Japan using text, pictures, and arrows pointing at what you need to press.



Gaming and play, however, will probably be the hottest space for mobile augmented reality. The AR can overlay buttons on a sheet of paper that users can press and perhaps cause a set of dominoes to fall with sound included. The demos that where shown in the presentation make it possible to make a 3D Angry Birds game. All of this is can be done with Qualcomm's new and free SDK, which supports all Android smartphones above 2.1, for mobile augmented reality and general computer vision programs.

While developing a game using the SDK is easy - can take just a month and a half - the main problem is that the 3D graphics are PlayStation quality at best and players need a marker. So why have an augmented reality game instead of a regular game with better graphics and doesn't need a sheet of paper (which can tear or be lost easily)?

Of course, I can imagine a Pokemon or Yu-gi-oh! card game with augmented reality and 3D creature modeling really hitting it off (though it would probably be on 3DS instead of an Android phone). Then again, Invizimals was abysmal. Still, for mobile augmented reality to become popular, I believe it will need to burst on the scene on a gaming handhold like the 3DS or perhaps the NGP before AR on smartphones becomes more than a gimmick and is more widely adopted by mobile developers.
Tags:   GDC
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