Weekly Augmented Reality Mobile Applications Galore

Yes, there are so many of new augmented reality browsers each week, they deserve their own post, instead of clogging the weekly linkfest. Here are the browsers that made news this week, in no particular order (well, ok, those they I liked are on top):

Air Painter
Previously we featured geoPaste, an Android application that lets you draw on real-life. Air Painter is a Japanese Android application with a similar premise, though its user interface seems a bit more refined, as can be seen in the video below (don’t worry about the German, you don’t have to understand it to see how cool this application is). More information on AirPainter’s hompeage, and here’s another video.

LooKATOR
LooKATOR shows you WiFi signals floating on top of Android’s video feed. Follow the spots to get stronger signal/stronger dose of radiation. Some details here, no official homepage that I can find (via DMFO)

WhereMark
An augmented reality browser with a slick interface for the iPhone, that features results from Google’s local search. Like most browsers these days, it also lets users add their own content. Some more information, in WhereMark’s homepage.

uTourX
uTourX is an iPhone browser like application, for the niche market of American students touring colleges before they sign in. Nothing much special, except the over-acting in the following video. Homepage

Vicrea’s Browser
I don’t have any better name for it. Vicrea is a Dutch corporation, and the next video shows a concept augmented reality application they are developing. They should really just ask Layar to give them a branded version. More information, here, in Dutch. (via DMFO)

Three Comments on Wikitude’s Augmented World Trade Center

So, Mobilizy just released a new update for Wikitude, one that allows you to point your phone at ground zero and see a 3d virtual version of the Twin Towers on the phone’s screen.

  • First we should congratulate Mobilizy for intergrating 3d objects into Wikitude. That’s only two weeks after Layar made a similar move. If I understand correctly, Wikitude doesn’t let folks upload their own 3d models yet, but that’s surely not that difficult.
  • We should also congratulate Mobilizy for a smart marketing move. Yes, it’s very respectful, and I actually think that there should be such a virtual memorial. However, one cannot deny that such videos as the above create buzz, something that Wikitude’s competitors usually excel at. I can only imagine the impact of such application if they had released it last month, for 9/11.
  • I’m fascianted by how the AR illusion is completly destroyed at around 00:18, when the buildings look very small just because there’s a tree in the background. That’s not Wikitude’s fault, but it just shows us how much there’s still to be done to make AR look good.

More details at TechCrunch.

Death of a Browser – Gamaray No More

Today is a sad day for many AR enthusiasts. Just yesterday I’ve asked how would Layar’s new 3d feature affect Gamaray. Now, I unfortunately know the answer. Clayton Lilly, the man behind the Gamaray browser, has decided to quit developing it. In a mail to Gamaray’s developers mailing list, Lilly writes:

After hearing the announcements made by Layar and Mobilizy yesterday I’ve decided to stop developing Gamaray any further. I’ll still support the existing version of Gamaray as best I can, although I would suggest applying for a Layar developer key or learning ARML. The main competitive features Gamaray had were 3D objects and its open http/XML architecture. Since Gamaray couldn’t compete against the other companies when it had these advantages, there’s no point in continuing now that both these features will be covered by the other browsers.

Gamaray was one of the first mobile AR browsers, and took the original approach of embedding 3d virtual objects from the get go. I first interviewed Lilly in June, when he had high hopes for Gamaray. However, even back then, Lilly was woried about the developing a platform:

Right now we are focusing on the creation of multiplayer AR games for Android, our first one being a tank combat game. Beyond that, it will depend on how the market looks, although we have lots of ideas.
We know that AR is going to be very big in the near future, but the challenge is knowing what to focus our efforts on. For a while we thought of creating a more general purpose AR platform, but I’m concerned that Google may already be developing a first person AR viewer for KML data and 3D models.

I hope that in a world where new AR browsers are created by the minute (I learned about two new ones just today), Lilly and Gamaray would find their niche, and maybe create that tank game.

How AR Browsers Should Be…

Frankly, I got tired with AR browsers. When Wikitude first launched I was excited. When Layar came out the whole blogosphere was thrilled. But now (only a couple of months after Layar went public), I’m feeling quite jaded. Everybody and his sister are making an AR browser application, and most of them are just he same.

Apparently, I’m not the only one harboring those feelings. The title of this post is taken from a mail sent to me by Daniel Wagner of Graz University of Technology, one of the best known names in the field of mobile AR. Wagner writes:

Rather than inventing the next (10th?) AR browser, we’ve been working on generally improving the usability of such applications. My team member Alessandro [Mulloni] has come up with some cool gestures and good ideas on how to avoid information overflow and how to let people easier navigate in a typical AR browser scenario. The result is something like. “this is how an AR browser should actually be” – without restricting to a specific application scenario.

While AR in general is from a first person perspective, Mulloni looked into extending it with panoramic and bird’s-eye perspectives, in order to enhance the user’s understanding of its surrounding. This is how it looks:


In his paper, Mulloni finds that such smooth transition into other perspectives can really help the user. So, what do you say? A new avenue for AR browsers, or is the real conclusion from this research is that AR still needs to be complemented by a top-down map view in order to be usable?

geoPaste – AR Publishing for Everybody

Last year’s Android Developer Challenge brought us such augmented reality applications as Wikitude and Enkin (which, until I’m proven wrong, is the first AR vaporware).
This time around, we are likely to see a surge in the number of AR applications participating in the challenge. An early bird, geoPaste, is coming to us all the way from Australia.

As can be seen in the video above, geoPaste lets you annotate reality right through your mobile phone, by sketching little pictures (or loading previously created images). Developer Gary Silva is concentrating at the moment on winning the challenge, but he has a grand vision for his app, “to make AR publishing available to everybody”.

After ADC1 I had also seen a Wikitude demo and saw their slant towards providing AR content for consumers, like Enkin ( and which Layar now continues ). From there I thought that AR publishing could be put directly into the hands of end users and was inspired to start working on geoPaste to try to realize that vision. My original thoughts were along the lines of digital graffiti, legal and harmless but at the same time indelible, hence my drawings metaphor.

Good luck on the challenge!
More details, over here.

Robotvision is for Humans, not Terminators

Mobile augmented reality becomes a crowded space really quickly, and I’m about to give up reporting about every application that pops into the lime light.
Anyway, Robotvision is another iPhone “augmented reality browser” developed by Portland based Tim Sears. To be released in September (once iPhone OS 3.1 is out), Robotvision boasts some unique features like using Bing rather than Google for local listings (which some would say is a wise decision), and being offered as a white-label infrastructure for other application creators (though, if you are looking to create an AR application for the iPhone you may also want to consider creating a layer for Layar, or using the open source iphonearkit).

Read more details at ReadWriteWeb.

Yelp introduces Augmented Reality to the iPhone via Easter Egg

While I’m quite a skeptic whether Presslite’s Metro Paris application for the iPhone has “AR capabilities” in the version available on the appstore, there’s no denying Yelp’s application does.
Found by Robert Scoble (I’m pretty sure it was leaked to Scoble), and brought to my awareness my ReadWriteWeb, shaking your iPhone while on Yelp’s main menu three times, will open up an hidden feature named monocle. Monocle is nothing but an augmented reality view of Yelp’s listing, as shown in the next video (many thanks to Tom Carpenter for finding this one):

It only works on the iPhone 3gs, but unlike Metro Paris, it’s free, so don’t hesitate to tr y it out. Now, I don’t think that in the long run it matters whether Apple knew or not about this feature. Obviously, mobile augmented reality is here, and we are only about see more of it in the coming months. What should matter is what’s next? Where will innovation come from, if everyone is using the same compass and GPS combo?
I for one think that we are in the middle of the “AR browsers” season, but the next big thing, which better suits the technology at hand (imprecise compasses), is mobile AR games. What are your thoughts?