Ab Fab Lab in a Street Near You

While we are on the topic of touristic applications, LastMinute.com labs, a travel site, has found a new way to tackle the problem of interfacing with an augmented reality world – for tourists. It is uncovered in an article on FastCompany.

The application Nru (pronounced Near You) uses  the GPS, compass, sensors and other goodies available on Google’s G1 phone. As you point it to different directions while strolling on a London street – Nru will display signals about your surrounding attractions; the usual suspects include restaurants, movies, shows.

Now, here comes the interesting part: the user interface. Hold it parallel to the ground and it displays a radar like view of your touristic targets. Hold it vertically and it transforms into a purple-black “heat” sensor highlighting worthy targets in your front.

To get more info about a selected target use the “old” gesture: just touch it.

They claim to pull information from a number of sources including Qype and fonefood. Not surprisingly – both are London focused information services.

Some will argue that since it doesn’t overlay (register) the signals on top of what’s in your field of view – it’s not a pure augmented reality implementation, but rather a location-based app.

But the British accent certainly masks that thought and adds a certain Je-ne-sais-quoi to the demo. Absolutely fabulous.

Nru is now available on the android marketplace – but only for UK customers. Top bollocks.

Can Google’s G1 do augmented reality better then the iPhone?

The iPhone hype still rules the augmented reality devices charts, but as Walter Mossberg claims in his in-depth test drive:

that will all change on Oct. 22, when T-Mobile and Google bring out the G1, the first hand-held computer that’s in the same class as Apple’s iPhone.

Google's G1


TechCrunch has its own view on the comparison.

Here’s my quick comparison of the two devices through an augmented reality lens:

They both have similar screen quality (480×320 65K color), a nice touch screen, similar CPU speed, GPU for graphics acceleration, accelerometers for sensing movement, and are both in the under $200 price category.

G1’s Screen size is reportedly narrower than the iPhone (3.2” compared with 3.5”) yet is bulkier (weighs 5.6 ounces to 4.7) and is much thicker; but it has a better camera resolution (3.1 mp compared with 2mp), though similar to iPhone – it can’t record video.

A downside for developers is the very low memory allocated for third party apps (128 megabytes) and the 1G storage space (expandable up to 8GB) which would seriously limit/irritate developers.

On the positive side it has 5 buttons, a real keyboard (you care?), a compass… and most importantly it’s built on Android, an open (yet unproven) Operating System  – which means easier to adapt for the specific needs of augmented reality applications. On the flip side, some developers hate the restriction that comes with Android: program in Java.

Bottom line, these are worthy competitors – each with its own advantages and caveats.  The real winner will be determined, as always, based on whoever offers the best content and the best reality experiences.

Remember WIFI ARMY? It was a very promising AR game for Android (made it to the #7 spot in my top 10 AR demos). But they went silent…their website is down. If you see something – say something.