News of Apple's iPad, the forthcoming release of the iPhone OS 4.0 software update and the surrounding hype of it all has been hard to avoid. According to third party developers, the new form factor and new features have brought new opportunities.
While plenty point to multitasking as the most exciting new feature, Daniel Bradby, application developer and co-founder of application development company JTribe, said he is excited about the possibilities of augmented reality (AR) on the iPhone.
“Currently, augmented reality on the phone is geographically based – based on compass and accelerometer and geo-locations so when you move around you can see different things," he said.
“[But] Apple look like they're opening up a lot of the software or the ability to actually process the incoming video stream coming from the phone, and I think this opens up a lot of abilities around augmented reality."
Wikitude is one location-based application that uses augmented reality technology. Developed by Mobilizy in Austria, users are presented with geo-spatial information – explanation, history or name for example - when the mobile camera is pointed at a landmark or area of interest.
Mobilizy system architect Markus Tripp told Computerworld Australia that the application uses a combination of GPS and compass sensors to “overlay interesting information directly on the camera screen of the phone”.
He said a limitation of the current iPhone software has been memory consumption and the accuracy of its GPS and compass facilities. But he believes the iPhone OS 4.0 software update and future iPhone models will improve these facilities.
Bradby said Apple’s updated application programming interface (API) could allow location-based applications like Wikitude to create a physical environment in addition to overlaying information.
“What you can't currently do is market-based augmented reality, where you hold up a picture frame and [it] recognises that picture frame and places an object on it.
“Unless you move that picture frame around, the object will stick to the picture frame, and what we're looking [for] is whether the API that Apple has opened up actually supports that type of augmented reality or at least a richer experience [of it].”
Tripp said mobile augmented reality browsers like Wikitude “are just the beginning", opening up doors to creating more AR-centred applications.
“We are already working on a navigation system based on augmented reality (Wikitude Drive), and because the processing power of the phones continuously increases we will see AR games, and complete 3D worlds,” Tripp said.
Engaging with brands could also become economical for marketeers, according to Bradby.
“The other side to it is that you can do things a lot more cheaply in this software . . . so if you think about creating a large structure in the physical world, that’s actually quite a long process to physically do.
“But if you do it on the phone and make it fun and so you can interact with [it] . . . it’s a good way to actually present to your customers the potential for a physical environment without actually building the physical environment,” he said.
Apple's iPhone OS 4.0 software update is due to hit Australia in June.