Augmented Reality Comes to iPhone
August 28, 2009 10:55 AM   Subscribe

Subways were the first application. Using the iPhone 3GS' camera, GPS, and compass, several new apps overlay information on a live view of the world around you. This week, Yelp joins them. William Gibson, eat your heart out. (A brief introduction to augmented reality for those who need one.)
posted by spitefulcrow (31 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Cool it's a latter-day CueCat!

This sounds monumentally difficult to use and pointless compared to just seeing the info overlaid on a map, or typing in the name of the place.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:02 AM on August 28, 2009

First application for the iPhone perhaps. It's old news for military applications.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:03 AM on August 28, 2009

I'm hoping for something closer to Ghostwire. Or maybe some sort of digital tagging app that will let you 'paint' crude messages in the air at locations that others can then see via the app.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:06 AM on August 28, 2009 [5 favorites]

*obligatory Virtual Light reference*
posted by dubold at 11:08 AM on August 28, 2009

This cyberspace, it everts?
posted by heeeraldo at 11:17 AM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

But will it let me see my audience in their underwear. To.. um... help with my public speaking issues?
posted by Hicksu at 11:18 AM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

I got your augmented reality right here, amirite?
posted by swift at 11:34 AM on August 28, 2009

When the idea was introduced, it was all about airplane maintenance and such. Now we're using it to catch the bus. I don't think Gibson has call to eat his heart out. "The Street finds its own uses for things."
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:38 AM on August 28, 2009

Android has Layar. It's a whole lot of fun for about 20 seconds, but I haven't yet come across a type of information that's well-suited to this kind of presentation.
posted by gurple at 11:38 AM on August 28, 2009

Both of these applications are in their near infancy. It appears that both of them use a system of GPS plus magnetometer to determine the camera's position and heading. The pitch and roll of the camera are probably determined determined using image features. I have seen much more compelling demos from Occipital and Layar. I know Occipital has had trouble getting their apps into the apps store. I wouldn't be surprised if Yelp snuck this past apple. The state of the art in AR is moving rapidly this year's ISMAR conference should have a lot of swell demonstrations. I am looking forward to see what the Active Vision Group at Oxford has to show off. In the mean time everyone seems to be using AR tool kit plus to create a new form of game or something cool on the iPhone
posted by kscottz at 11:43 AM on August 28, 2009

It sort-of-kind-of-works-but-not-really. Kind of cool though.
posted by Artw at 11:51 AM on August 28, 2009

That London bus app Youtube video is perhaps the worst product demo I've ever seen. Not only do I not want the app, I'm not even sure what it does. My take-away was that the iPhone sure is shiny.
posted by smackfu at 12:20 PM on August 28, 2009

Back when I was at the Media Lab we used to talk about doing augmented reality all the time. It was just too hard, too hardware and software intensive to be usable in a casual way. It's neat to see that it's now possible to do it on a cell phone, thanks to cameras and GPS and compasses and databases.

I think it's interesting Apple hasn't approved any of these apps yet. Yelp only got it in there because they hid it; no doubt someone's gonna be in trouble about it.
posted by Nelson at 12:26 PM on August 28, 2009

All the consumer electronics that use super-fancy accelerometers and tilt sensors are driving down the costs too. If Nintendo can put one in the $20 Wii MotionPlus, that makes it easier for Apple to include one in their $600 phone.
posted by smackfu at 12:41 PM on August 28, 2009

I just tried the Yelp - Monocle thing. Needs a bit more work.
posted by R. Mutt at 1:00 PM on August 28, 2009

Yeah, until this can be overlayed on your retina it strikes me a pretty useless.
posted by brevator at 1:06 PM on August 28, 2009

I tried Layar on my G1 for a half-hour or so. It was slow and clunky, the interface was hard to read, and it didn't really find what I might look for in unfamiliar surroundings (it found the horrible pub near me, but failed to overlay the Starbucks fifty feet away).

If they can speed up the response time and unclutter the interface, though, I'll definitely give it another go, if only so I can walk around with my phone to my face while making little vrr vrr pretend cyborg leg noises to myself.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 1:19 PM on August 28, 2009

The idea is neat.. but it took me quite a few initial "shake three times" to get it to recognize what I was trying to do. After that, no matter how much I calibrated the compass, the darn thing is a whole 180 degrees off from where the actual locales are -- no matter where I am (re: potential magnets, etc.).

Another thing I like about it -- but that ends up getting in the way -- is how the size of the box encompassing the business information is smaller if it is further away. While it is cute in theory, it needs some work.. because inevitably there's a box in front of it that you end up clicking on instead.

When I tried it today, the camera itself froze on a shot of my feet, but the AR kept working. And by working I mean still not actually working.
posted by june made him a gemini at 1:40 PM on August 28, 2009

This would be great if it could track cops in real time.
posted by Pastabagel at 3:44 PM on August 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

Maybe if the iPhone/G1/whatever weren't crippled with anemic processors this might be cool. Right now it's obvious that it's taxing the poor lil' bastards for all they're worth.

The best (as in, most practical) app I've seen is the SkyMap app for the G1, but even it still stutters.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:49 PM on August 28, 2009

After that, no matter how much I calibrated the compass, the darn thing is a whole 180 degrees off from where the actual locales are

It's possible that the GPS reading was off, not the compass reading.
posted by empath at 4:24 PM on August 28, 2009

I love the blasé attitude around here, as if the first augmented reality apps available to the public aren't cool because of how glitchy/slow/poorly-designed they are, or because, come on, the military has had these for years. Gawd.

I think this is badass. Next step: retina.
posted by nosila at 4:30 PM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Well shit. Now I want the 3GS. I just paid off my 3G. Damn you Apple!

A small aside: Google Maps is useless in Beijing. Not only is the map overlay off by about 700 metres (at least!) but looking the address lookups are shit.
posted by flippant at 6:02 PM on August 28, 2009

Sorry, it isn't going to be AR until there is a technology that allows it to overlay my everyday world, all the time if I desire it. And, yeah, it will probably be dataglasses.

(I still dream of programmable glasses that will allow me to enter my existing prescription and have them autotune the digital image to allow clear sight. I also wish they would have a high light filter, and macro/micro settings would be so damn shiny!)
posted by Samizdata at 6:35 PM on August 28, 2009

I don't understand what everyone is complaining about.

I enabled and when I was walking around downtown it helped me find an ever-so-excellent thrift store and a great place (underrated on Yelp if you ask me) for joe, so I could contemplated my next reality-augmented really augmented venture.

Crossing the street, a kid ollie'd up onto the sidewalk, and I followed him using Monocle to a kill skate shop. I left with an awesome deck and it was the I realized I'd left shishi, my albino pomeranian, tied to the MUNI.

No worries, Monocle helped me find my lost dog.

+++ would augment again.
posted by mistersquid at 6:41 PM on August 28, 2009

After that, no matter how much I calibrated the compass, the darn thing is a whole 180 degrees off from where the actual locales are

Exactly my experience ... almost perfect in its wrongness.
posted by R. Mutt at 7:56 PM on August 28, 2009

Unbeknownst to you lot, billions of years of evolution have given me a brain that allows me to effectively find my way around places I've never even been before. I laugh at your feeble attempts to use technology to find Starbucks!

Method 1: Amble around aimlessly until you find a Starbucks. It's not like there's just the one.
posted by sneebler at 8:25 PM on August 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

I would like to plug Omni for having a good application of "Augmented Reality" for the iPhone. My wife recently related a situation to me where she was meeting with her grad school advisor (who also has an iPhone) and her Omni app on her iPhone realized she was meeting with him and alerted her to a list of topics she needed to cover with him.

So, this augmented reality thing is already out there, you just have to know where to look.
posted by Severian at 9:13 PM on August 28, 2009

the first augmented reality apps available to the public aren't cool

I think that people who have been following this go "oh wow augmented reality" but the general public just wants a useful app, and just adding poorly done AR doesn't magically make that happen. An app can be let down by its data source as much as by its concept.
posted by smackfu at 8:00 AM on August 29, 2009

R. Mutt: ... almost perfect in its wrongness.

Almost - but not quite - entirely unlike Reality.
posted by Greg_Ace at 3:25 PM on August 29, 2009

*Yawn*, I'll be impressed when I can wear contact lenses that render cyberspace over real life and become a true Gargoyle in Snow Crash cypherpunk fashion.
posted by archae at 4:39 AM on August 30, 2009

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