May 9, 2011
One of the coolest developments of the smartphone era has been the rise of augmented reality. Using your phone’s camera, AR apps place information and entertainment directly onto the world around you. In essence, they turn your phone into a magical lens, through which the world becomes more interesting and local knowledge can easily be attained.
Wikitude World Browser, from Mobilizy GMBH, allows you to build an AR world of your own, filled with details, directions and other snippets of information about the area you find yourself in. It also lets you look at any geo-tagged tweets, Flickr pictures and last.fm users that are around you as well. You’re building up a picture of your surroundings, using data that’s widely available on the internet.
For example, if you’re in a new town and you fancy finding something interesting to do, you can set the app to show all of the Foursquare check-in points. Hold your phone up and Wikitude will show you the direction you have to travel, as well as how far away the check-in points are. There’s a handy map view as well, if you want to double check your route to whatever activity you fancy.
Wikitude also allows you to create your own â€œworldsâ€, by joining together different search options. Maybe you want to check on all the tweets that have been posted nearby, and all the Wikipedia points of interest â€“ create your own world and you can do that every time you’re somewhere new.
There are a few problems with the app â€“ it’s awkward to use if you’re sitting down, because the app expects you to be standing up, meaning you have to wave it about above your head if you’re using the camera view. Also, sometimes the directions aren’t perfect â€“ a fault of the information the app is collating rather than the app itself â€“ but it’s still annoying when you’ve followed your camera into a dead end rather than a happening nightspot.
As a first step into the world of AR apps, Wikitude is brilliant. It shows off a lot of features and ideas that are, over time, going to become the norm in smartphone applications. It’s not perfect, but updates and more user input will likely smooth out the worst of its problems. If you haven’t downloaded Wikitude yet, then might I suggest you make your next stop the Android Market, because it’s going to open up a whole new world of possibilities for you.