The promise of mobile augmented reality

Robotvision appMy intention with this blog is always to write medium-length “think-pieces,” about technology, government, or preferably both. I’m working on several (the Jefferson Gov 2.0 piece, the Evil Twin 2.0 piece, and one on “whither the multilingual web”), but they do truly require thought and some free time, so they percolate a bit.

In the meantime, readers like the latest cool demo videos, so for Friday fun here’s another one (watch below or on youTube), which was featured on TechCrunch last night (“Bing comes to the iPhone via Robotvision”), with an augmented reality app for the iPhone which uses Bing Maps and Bing’s real-time data (website here). The company describes itself this way:

Robotvision augmented reality is an exciting new way to explore the world around you. Using the accelerometer and compass technology of the iPhone 3GS, along with new camera capabilities of the 3.1 OS update, you can discover content and locations around you like never before. Search for nearby locations, restaurants, points of interest — you name it! All using the power of Bing local search. Discover photographs taken and geotagged by Flickr users in the area. Find and engage with people on Twitter in your area – all just by looking around like you normally would!” –robotvision website, emphasis added

As TechCrunch points out, “Last month, Microsoft announced its Bing iPhone SDK, which this app is using.” There will be more along these lines for the Windows Phones being released imminently this fall (using WinMo 6.5).

If you like what you see in that video, you should follow Tim Sears, the engineer who has created robotvision, who writes on Twitter as @u2elan.  I also follow several other good augmented-reality Twitter feeds, here’s a short starter list if you’re interested:

It’s obvious that the AR field and the real-time web are heading toward immersive convergence, with what will almost certainly be astounding consequences and capabilities. For example, I’ve written about Microsoft Tag before – and now Joe Wilcox is making a provocative argument in an article with a benign title, “Could Microsoft Tag Augment Windows Mobile Reality?” At the end of the long piece which looks at competing strategies from Nokia, Google’s Android and others, Wilcox proposes the following (I’ve added bold emphasis to a couple points):

There is yet no mobile barcode economy. Google doesn’t control tagwords. Microsoft Tag has potential to become the barcode development and services platform. The Bing and Windows Live teams should be all over Tag. Microsoft isn’t exactly early barcode adopter, but there is yet time as there is no widely adopted standard. There are competitors, like Nokia Mobile Codes. Google isn’t sitting idly by, either. For example, the aforementioned Sky Map Web page has a ZXing barcode. Just point your Android phone camera to download the application.

Microsoft is building the services infrastructure to do much more, if company executives have the wherewithal. Tags could be the commercial backbone for mobile information, with no manual search necessary. They could build economy into mobile augmented reality.

I say to Microsoft: Don’t wait for third parties. Tag it! Tag everything. Microsoft Tag already is available for most mobile platforms, not just Windows Mobile. I would start with Windows Live Maps, augmenting reality in the browser as well as the device. Even do some augmented augmented reality, by overlaying mapped rooftops with Microsoft Tags. The user clicks or touches the Tag to get more information. Sure, you could overlay name of the store, but a mobile barcode could access so much more information tied to a database service.

Building out infrastructure will take years, and Google is sure to push its own technology if Microsoft does. Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates built the company by selling stuff cheaper than competitors and by controlling key file formats and technology standards. The mobile barcode is a technology standard Microsoft shouldn’t want any other company to control, particularly Google.


Agree or disagree with Wilcox, there’s sure to be movement along those lines. Let me know your thoughts.

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4 Responses

  1. nice info


  2. […] 2010 The promise of mobile augmented reality […]


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