Apple’s iPad Camera Fail

Unless you’ve been living in a box today, you know that Apple finally unveiled the tablet iPad today. The biggest surprise about the announcement was the lack of a camera on the lap sized PC. No camera, really? If you don’t believe it, check the official spec page.

Besides the implications for augmented reality, which I’ll get to in a moment, the iPad not having a camera is a giant fail.  I actually expected the iPad to have two cameras.  One forward-looking so the iPad could function as a giant Polaroid and the other user-facing so videos could be recorded.  We could forgive eliminating one of them, probably the forward-looking one since its so big, but not having the user-facing camera is inexcusable.

The series of tubes we call the Internet has moved beyond simple text.  People want to record and upload videos straight to YouTube without having to yank out their dust-covered hand held or use Skype to call their friends while they’re watching the game.

The Apple iPad not having even one camera is like hooking up satellite without DVR.  Sure you can do it, but why?

Of course, I’m being overly melodramatic here.

The real point to the iPad is competition for the Kindle, eReader and the Nook.  Apple wants to revolutionize the way we read magazines, books and newspapers.  Functionality for augmented reality isn’t even an afterthought.  How many people are using their camera lying in bed reading an interactive book?

And is this a major setback for augmented reality?  Not really.  A giant-sized magic lens would add a fun new canvas to play with, but really wouldn’t be a game changer.  Additionally, Apple isn’t expecting the tablet market to come even close to the smartphone market in sales.

So in the end, the iPad is a fail for augmented reality, but will probably give Jeff Bezos nightmares for months as he wonders how he’s going to compete against a Pentium 286 when he’s selling a Commodore 64.

And maybe, just maybe, Steve Jobs is still working on a see-through AR-enabled HMD.  Then I’d say, all is forgiven Stevie, I’m coming home to Apple.

Augmented Reality at CES 2010

Thursday begins the Consumer Electronics Show 2010, the gadget-head show of the year.  While the Nexus One has all the buzz going into the show and 3D TV will probably be the talk of it, readers of Games Alfresco will want to know what to expect from CES2010 for augmented reality. 

Overall, there’s not going to be any big surprises for augmented reality, but there will be some products that will help further the cause. 

AR Drone

The combination of self-adjusting mini-helicopter and augmented reality interface has turned this little toy into quite the buzz maker pre-show for the device maker Parrot (so much so the website is currently crashed due to traffic.)  The drone has two cameras that can connect to an iPhone or iTouch through a wi-fi network. 

The Drone was introduced Tuesday and attracted the biggest crowd.  This creative application of AR really shows what’s possible using well placed cameras and some ingenuity.  The price or released date hasn’t been announced but it’s expected in late 2010. 

Tablets

Microsoft & HP are expected to release a tablet during the 2010 show while Apple plans to release theirs afterwards.  Tablets are interactive stylish screens that are supposed to be the next wave of portable computers.  Their built-in webcam, wi-fi, processor speeds and portability will give augmented reality the option to upside the “magic lens.”  Redmondpie website has supposed leaked specifications that include a projector which would allow Sixth Sense type AR. 

The supposed iSlate or iPad (really how hard is it to sound like you’ve found leaked Apple information by adding an “i” in front of a random techy word) will need to have GPS, accelerometer, and a compass to truly be AR ready.  Otherwise, the only thing the tablet will be able to do is object recognition and marker-based AR. 

TVs with Cameras

The stealthier possible boon for augmented reality might be in the form infusing TVs with computer sensibilities.  The Skype tool is looking to add webcams to HD TVs for video-calls.  With TVs having wi-fi access, computer processors and downloadable widgets, TV-apps could be a huge market for augmented reality.  The technology would have to be marker and object recognition based, but the stationary setting could allow for creative products like the Sony EyePet without having to fork-out $400 for the PS3.  I’m sure the furry-crowd would love to talk to each other on video-Skype, augmented to look like their favorite animal. 

In general, we’re not going to have an OMFG moment from the CES 2010.  There could be a few surprises similar to the AR Drone, but mostly we’ll grind out more processing power, camera speeds and other un-sexy improvements that will help make augmented reality better.