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Top Ten Augmented Reality Devices

Worlds Collide with the introduction of Augmented Reality. Now the latest craze for smartphones, PCs, camera, GPS systems and even eye-wear, AR merges our virtual and real worlds. Its initiated by technology that takes your existing environment and provides an overlay of extra data and information about the things you are viewing. Now us mere mortals can have some of the superpowers we thought were exclusive to the Bionic Man and the Terminator!

In essence, AR brings your content to life! While there are a multitude of developers who are experimenting and launching new apps and devices daily, I have selected what I feel are the TOP TEN AR Apps that are doing the best job in developing new uses for this cutting-edge technology.

1- Yelp's Monocle

Yelp, Inc. is a Web 2.0 company that operates a social networking, user review, and local search web site of the same name. Over 25 million people access Yelp's website each month, putting it in the top 100 of U.S. Internet web sites.

Yelp's Monocle is the first iPhone App with augmented reality. It takes a lot of  Yelp's database of information and data and overlays it onto the real world.


 
Once activated on your iPhone, the application will pull up your phone’s camera which you can then direct at a street scene in front of you as you walk or drive. The overlay that pops up will then begin to show the names of restaurants and bars and provide you with reviews, store hours and all the other pertinent data Yelp has been known to provide its users.

So how do you get it? Well, here’s a quick and easy step-by-step:
  • 1.) Own an 3GS iPhone (doesn’t work with the old ones, unfortunately)
  • 2.) Download the Yelp application (or upgrade it, if you already have it)
  • 3.) Open it.
  • 4.) Shake your phone nice and good (recommendation: three times)
  • 5.) Wait for Monocle message to appear: “”The Monocle is activated. Yelp thought reality was boring, so we augmented it. Look for the button in the upper right corner.”
  • 6.) Click the “Monocle” button in the upper right corner.
You will know you are activated when you see activation message pops up on your screen.



This video will provide you with some additional insight...



2- Metro Paris




The French app development shop PresseLite has an augmented reality supporting iPhone app now available in the iTunes store. It's called Metro Paris Subway, and while the app isn't new, it released a new version recently adding an AR overlay that displays information about Paris businesses when you view the city through your iPhone's camera.

Sorry, this video is in French, but the visuals will give you an idea of its capabilities.



3- London Bus




The London Bus iPhone application, which promises to tell you where your nearest bus or tube stop is, has been updated to add augmented reality overlays for the iPhone 3GS. When you turn it on, you can wave the camera around and it’ll overlay the direction of any nearby tube and bus stations that are less than 1km away. There’s also the option to view “points of interest”, like restaurants and museums. The London Bus application is available now at the iTunes App Store. It costs 59p in the UK.



4- District 9, The Movie


A recent example of augmented reality appeared in the marketing campaign for the sci-fi blockbuster District 9 released this past summer. On the movie’s official website there's a “training simulator” game, which directs computer users to print a postcard containing the District 9 logo and hold it in front of a webcam.



The postcard contains a marker - and when the game detects that signal from the user's webcam video, it overlays a 3-D hologram of a District 9 character onto the computer screen. From there, players can click buttons to shoot guns, jump up and down or throw a human against a wall and the overlay will appear like its interacting with the screen's background.



5- i-Tag Action Figures


Mattel is using the same type of 3-D imaging and augmented reality in its  “i-Tag” action figures for James Cameron’s new movie Avatar. The toys include a card containing a marker, which then projects as a 3-D action figure onto your computer. This allows children to battle each other’s virtual characters as if they were real.



Each toy will also provide the user with additional information about their action figure’s character. The movie will hit theaters December 18th.



6- Layar


Layar takes the AR concept even further, delivering a framework for multiple layers of AR content accessed through the camera onto your mobile phone.



Layar, a company based in Amsterdam, released an augmented reality browser for Android smartphones last June. The Layar browser views one's environment through the app and then displays 'houses for sale', popular restaurants,shops and tourist attractions. The software relies on downloading “layers” of data provided by developers that have coded the platform. Thus, while the information appears to display in real time, it’s not truly real-time since the app can’t analyze data it hasn’t downloaded in advance.



7- TwittARound


TwittARound is an application for the iPhone 3GS that uses the GPS, compass and camera to show where Tweets are coming from and are overlaid onto the landscape, augmenting your view of the world and allowing you to actually see where your tweets are coming from and how far away they are.



The video of the first beta version of TwittARound is here. There is no sound but the visuals will provide you with its capability.



According to a Mashable report, TwittARound hasn’t made it into the iPhone App Store yet. The iPhone SDK doesn’t provide public APIs for manipulating live video. In other words, the app is using parts of the software that Apple hasn’t opened up yet. Neither is there an unofficial version of the code available at this point, although there is an open letter that is petitioning Apple to open these parts of the SDK.

8- AR Business Cards


Many business cards are basically boring calling cards. Most list your name, rank and contact info. James Alliban has decided to used augmented reality to put a new spin on the traditional formula. The cards printed at moo.com contain a coded graphic that when recognized by a webcam, a cool 3D grid pops up and a video can be played back displaying the business card owner delivering a message that was pre-recorded.



The only downside to Alliban's technology is that the receiver of the business card needs a computer to be able to view the content. This video will give you some additional insight to understand the concept at play here.




9- Wikitude Drive




The developers of this app wanted to see if it was feasible to combine real-time navigation with mobile augmented reality. Wikitude Drive was the result and it serves as a fully-functional, light weight navigational system which overlays point-to-point directions on a camera-view, without the need for maps. In addition it provides users with Wikipedia information pertaining to the site you’re looking at.  Mobilizy GmbH reveals a preview of it's augmented reality navigation system, the first fully functional mobile AR navigation system available for the Android platform.



10- 'A Twinkle in the Eye' Contact Lens


Called "A Twinkle in the Eye," these lenses have been fabricated with an LED, a small radio chip and an antenna.The unit is powered wirelessly by the RF electrical signal and represents the start of research that could eventually lead to screens mounted onto contact lenses inside your eyes.



With AR technology moving at lighting speed, it looks like once this lens technology is perfected, we will no longer need smartphones any longer, as augmented reality chips will eventually be able to be implanted into our eyes and ears, making humans the extension of their own reality. (for more on this topic, see my previous blog - "Augmented Reality Provides Terminator Eyesight" )



In 10 years, it is believed that augmented reality will change the way everyone experiences work, travel, design, training, personal productivity, health care, entertainment, games, art, and advertising.

Now that you have had a chance to review the TOP TEN, let us know what your favorite AR device is by taking our poll. And if we have omitted one of your AR favorites, please leave us a comment and a link to its Web site.

Remember... our reality is often times colored by our pre-conceived beliefs. So by augmenting that reality with a little more data...who knows...in time...it may actually alter our perception of what we are looking at!

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Ron Callari
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