How Will You Protect Your Customer’s Data Exhaust?

Last week on The Future Digital Life, I posted about the Dangers of Computer Vision.  The post garnered a fair amount of interest but it is a question that’s a tad ahead of its time.  We don’t have cameras greedily sucking up information by the bucketfuls right now.

But we do have GPS for our augmented reality apps.

Cue the Imperial March soundtrack and bring out Apple’s turtlenecked front man in role of Darth Jobs.  A recent “bug” was uncovered in iPhone’s software that allowed tracking of the phone user’s location.

Apple claims the data is not the actual smartphone location:

“The location data that researchers are seeing on the iPhone is not the past or present location of the iPhone, but rather the locations of Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers surrounding the iPhone’s location, which can be more than one hundred miles away from the iPhone.”

Either way, it’s a perception that a breech of trust has occurred.  Rather than ramble on about the dangers of this data, and since many of the readers of Games Alfresco are software designers, I thought I would pose a question.  One that won’t be that surprising if you read the title of my post.

Sound off, software developers of the rabid interwebs…

How will you protect your customer’s data exhaust?

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.

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.

Apple See-Through Augmented Reality HMD Glasses

The January issue of Mac Life sports a fauxtograph of possible Apple augmented reality HMD glasses. It’s hard to know how much of this article is based on concept, but Apple working on an AR HMD would be a huge jumpstart to the nascent technology.

In mid-April of 2008, Apple published a patent for a “Head Mounted Display System.”  The patent shows screens and fiber optics and vision imaging controls.  Would the display use pico projection or utilize OLED displays?  Pico displays could be used right now, but OLEDs might be a year out.

Would Apple make HMD goggle for augmented reality?  Looking back at this 2006 interview on MacSimumNews, we can see that Steve Jobs was already considering it.  Given that he also denies Apple is looking at a HMD practically guarantees they have something in the works. 

Jobs: Yes, you want a nice big screen so that you can see lots of music and you can pick out what you want, versus a tiny little screen. But then again, you want the screen to be small so that you can put it in your pocket. Actually, discovering and buying music on a computer and downloading it to the iPod—in our opinion, that’s one of the geniuses of the iPod. So you can look at changing that—and maybe that will happen over time—but I think the experience you’ll get on a device optimized for putting in your pocket is going to be far less satisfactory than on a personal computer. You may still want to do that [on a small screen] occasionally, but I don’t think it’s ever going to mean that you can not have some other device that is your primary device for buying and cataloguing music.

Swisher: What would solve that? Can it be solved?

Jobs: Rollable screens, goggles you can put on; I don’t know. It’s not on the horizon.

Given Apple’s trademark secrecy, it’s a huge unknown if MacLife’s article is pure speculation or its based on some real knowledge.  We do know that Apple has patented aspects of an AR HMD, so it’s not crazy to think they might come out with one.  With tons of augmented reality applications hitting the market, I can’t imagine that Apple will wait too long to unveil their AR glasses to grab a critical market lead.  All the pieces of the technology are available as we speak and I’m not the only one to notice this (read PatentlyApple).   

Microvision, Vuzix and Lumus are telling us to wait until 2011 for AR HMDs, but if Apple gets involved, we just might see it happen in 2010.