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Docomo AR walker demo

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[CEATEC 2010] AR, or Augmented Reality is a very fashionable trend these days. If you’re not familiar with AR, the goal is to supplement (“augment”) reality (often as seen through a live video feed) with additional information about a location, object or person. You can see conceptual examples of AR in popular movies such as Terminator in which the villain would get all kinds of information as it was looking around.

Docomo is indeed working on such things, and the AR Walker demo shows how phones and a heads-up display could augment your reality. It consists of having users walk in a virtual environment (more suitable for a tradeshow) and have them look left and right to get information on restaurants.

Unfortunately, the demo could not be more unimpressive. It is only using GPS information to know your location and data from the orientation sensor to know where you are looking at. The handset does not have any image recognition, so it is all a loose approximation. The demo itself was using a graphic level that reminded me of my Atari ST, and I’m being generous.

In the end, I don’t think that I would place anything that doesn’t have a real-time visual recognition engine in the Augmented Reality category. If an AR app wants to provide meaningful information, it should recognize what you’re looking at and throw stuff from its database based on pure location and orientation. Additionally, with visual recognition, there’s no need to rely on GPS data, which can be highly inaccurate in a city with tall buildings. Augmented Reality can be really fun, but most of the demos and apps that we can find these days are quite uninteresting and will give a bad rep to AR. Sad.

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