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Mobile Phones Present Improved, Augmented Reality

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mobile phone with digital information overlay

Mobile phones may be given such AR abilities as overlaying digital information on a live image.


New mobile phones could make it possible for augmented reality (AR) — real-world views overlaid with digital information — to trump virtual reality, which lacks a convincing sense of immersion.

AR can take the form of a cell phone's screen showing a live view of the user's surroundings, enhanced with digital annotations, graphics, and other superimposed data. Among AR applications available to users of advanced handsets are a travel-guide app and a general-purpose AR browser. These innovations are made possible with the advent of mobile phones outfitted with numerous capabilities. Such capabilities and features include global positioning system (GPS) functions, cameras, tilt sensors, fast Internet connections, and a digital compass. The GPS/tilt sensors/compass combination allows a handset to determine its location, its orientation relative to the ground, and the direction it is being pointed in. In conjunction with the camera and wireless Internet connectivity, the phone can support AR apps. Apps can tag or label real-world objects in the phone camera's field of view, although specific apps allow tagging of some objects and disallow the labeling of others.

Nokia's mobile augmented reality applications software facilitates identification of objects or landmarks by drawing upon existing databases, such as those used in satellite navigation systems. Several companies are using object-recognition technology to make AR-enabled handsets better able to tag and identify objects at close quarters. The tracking of people carrying mobile phones is another possible application, with information from social networks overlaid on the real world.

From Economist Technology Quarterly
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Abstracts Copyright © 2009 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


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