Five Reasons Why the iPhone 4 Was Made for Augmented Reality

The last year we’ve had quite the love/hate relationship with Steve Jobs and his beloved iPhone.  Like a pimple-faced love struck boy with a handful of daisies in our hand, we felt the fools when the OS3.1 stood us up at the local Burger Barn.  I mean, we weren’t asking to go steady, just a date and maybe a kiss on the cheek in the form of video access API.  Afterwards, we crossed out Steve Job’s picture in our yearbook and shot spit wads at him in hallway when we got the chance.

Now it looks like the new iPhone 4 and iOS4, will make us love sick again.  Though this time we’re a little older and not as pimple laded as last year.  Augmented reality is growing up and we have more to offer, and in return, so does the new iPhone and OS as Steve Jobs announced the details on it yesterday.

1) Video Access API

Clearly this is the number one based on the long and fruitless flirtation during 2009.  With this change, the iPhone can finally become a real AR smartphone using video feed instead of lame picture frame workarounds.

2) Dual facing cameras

We thought the iPad might have it but we picked the wrong Apple product.  Dual facing cameras can turn the iPhone into the same weird tool that the webcam is, replacing our faces with cows, Iron Man, or Transformers.  I hope developers can learn to be more creative than that.

3) Apple A4 Processor

Playing with video requires more power.  This new chip will raise the ceiling on potential applications.  ‘Nuff said.

4) Gyroscope

This one caught me by surprise, and a pleasant one at that.  With the gyroscope, the iPhone can now understand the world without having to actual see anything.  With the accelerometer it can essentially sense gravity, giving the iPhone an easy way to tell where the floor is.  This should greatly improve those shooter games that left zombies and fires floating in free space.  If I were a developer, I would be quite excited about this addition.

5) 5 Megapixel HD Camera

While this isn’t better than the Droid eight-megapixel and only matches the Nexus One five-megapixel, it improves from the previous number of three.  While this isn’t a huge upgrade, it does help our vision system see what’s going on.

A few months ago, I had pretty much decided not to get an iPhone when my wife’s contract was up, but with these changes I think the iPhone is back in the hunt.  As new demos of AR apps start hitting YouTube, I think we’ll all get a better sense of how good the new iPhone is going to be for augmented reality.  I for one, hope we grow to have a wonderful relationship with full benefits, if you know what I mean.

10 Cool Things Going On Right Now in Augmented Reality

Augmented reality has come a long way in a years time.  Last year I got excited by research projects and gimmicky AR webcam advertising, but that quickly faded on the tenth plus iteration.  It wasn’t until July that we starting having real AR products in the form of apps.  Nearly a year later and still early in the development of the AR ecosystem, we’re seeing a more diverse use of the technology and that has me excited again.  So I want to take a moment to go over ten cool things going on right now in augmented reality.

1. Battle of the AR Browsers

Wikitude, Layar, Tonchidot, Junaio, TagWhat and others hope to be the standard for the AR browser market.  Layar has recently upped the ante with an AR content store and TagWhat takes it in a new direction by combining lessons learned with Foursquare and Twitter.  I suspect one of the big boys like Google, Twitter or Facebook will eventually either create their own or co-opt the ideas from these early browsers into their current products.  I’m not sure which horse to bet on in this race, but in the end we customers are the winners.

2. DIY Portable Augmented Reality Headset

Using an Eye-Trek video headset, the guy at Tailormadetoys made a pair of AR glasses.  I love the DIY culture and while they’re not see-through, I think all the right parts to make one are out there.  This post from Team Hack-a-Day proves that the DIY makers are getting close, so why can’t one of the big makers get it done?

3. The AR phone – Ouidoo

The specs on this Ouidoo QderoPateo smartphone are in the WTF!? zone.  While the phone won’t be out until the fall, the company claims it’ll have a 26-core CPU capable of 8-gigaflop floating point operations and include  512MB RAM, 4GB ROM, 28GB of built-in storage, microSD expansion, Bluetooth, WiFi, GPS, built-in 3D map, accelerometer, digital compass, 5-megapixel camera with flash, 220 hours of standby battery life, and a sharp 3.5-inch 800 x 480 screen.  Whew.

While I’m not completely believing the hype, and it could end up being vaporware, it certainly looks promising.  Though it’ll have to work hard to compete with the likes of the iPhone and Droid.

4. Eyeborg

Bionic eyes and augmented reality.  It’s like peanut better and chocolate!  Rob Spence is putting a camera into his eye to make movies with (and because its just plain cool.)  And he’s also interested in combining augmented reality with his eye camera.  They’ve come up with a promotional AR eyeborg t-shirt in the meantime.

Eyeborg’s New AR shirt in action!

5. ARE2010

Bruce Sterling, Will Wright, Marco Tempest, and the list goes on.  It pains me to say that I won’t be able to make the inaugural event.  I had a work conflict with that week, so I have to bow out of hosting the panel on AR glasses.  But for the rest of you, I hope you’ll be able to make it.  With AR on the rise and viable business options a-plenty, it’s a good time to network and see what everyone is doing with the nascent technology.  This is the “can’t miss” AR event of the year.

6. ARWave

Our favorite interviewer Tish Shute and longtime commenter Thomas Wrobel have been sheparding the AR Wave project and collaborating with people all over the globe.  While it’s still too early to tell, this could end up being one of the most important AR developments out there if they can truly create an open source way of using AR.  As they’ve been telling everyone, they’re trying to make a system that:

* Anyone can make content

* Anyone can make a browser

* Anyone can run a server

7. iPhone OS4.0

It almost pains me to get excited about an iPhone update that promises video access to make real AR work on that smartphone.  We got fooled last September with the OS3.1.  I’m hoping we don’t get fooled again (unless you’re the Who.)

8. Haptic AR floors

I’m not even entirely sure if haptic floors fit into the augmented reality spectrum, but it’s so crazy weird and true, that I had to include it.  I seriously doubt we’ll be seeing a commercial product anytime soon though (or ever.)

9. AR Drone

While the news on the AR drone is a stale few months old, I still think it warrants inclusion because it was a great product.  The hovercraft alone was worth the price of admission, but the AR added a creative twist to it.  I have no idea if it sold well, but it sure did capture the imaginations of a lot of geeks.

10. You choose!

Let us know what you think is the coolest thing going in augmented reality right now.  Whether it’s a product only hinted at or one currently residing on your smartphone, we’d like to hear it.  So let us know here at Games Alfresco in the comment section!