Qualcomm is working to bring augmented reality to smartphones.
Imagine you and a friend are sitting around bored trying to think of something to do when suddenly your friend pulls out a piece of paper and lays it on the table. You quickly grab your cell phone and prepare for battle. Why? Because that flat piece of paper is now a Rock’em Sock’em Robots game board, and instead of tiny, plastic robots to fight with, you have digital robots on your cell phone. Sound farfetched? It’s not. And if Qualcomm has its way, you could be seeing this type of augmented reality mobile game soon.
A recent article in The San Diego Union Tribune discusses how Qualcomm is working on bringing mobile augmented reality to smartphones. This technology will use the smartphone’s camera to display three-dimensional (3-D) graphics onto real-world images. In the case of Rock’em Sock’em Robots, the camera will scan the game board for recognizable images, organize them into a 3-D image on your smartphone’s screen and then create tiny robots that can only be seen and controlled on the smartphone.
Despite sounding futuristic, augmented reality isn’t a new development. This type of software has been used since 1998 by football broadcasts to add the first down and line of scrimmage lines to the football fields. This is, however, the first time it has been turned mobile, and proponents of this software have high hopes for its possibilities.
Mobile augmented reality could be used for anything from assembly instructions for furniture and electronics to bringing educational textbooks to life in classrooms. “If you’re teaching physics, why not build a little interactive 3-D physics simulation that looks like it’s sitting on the textbook page instead of a bunch of static diagrams?” said Blair MacIntyre, head of the Augmented Environments Lab at Georgia Tech University. “If you want to teach about anything geometric, doing it in 3-D on the hand-held would be much more clearly understandable.”
The areas that could benefit the most from mobile augmented reality are advertising and marketing. Companies could entice consumers to purchase products by showing them additional content when their product is viewed through a smart phone; such as having the bee on Honey Nut Cheerios come to life and fly around your screen when you view the cereal box on your phone. Mobile augmented reality could be a way for businesses to bring interactive media to current non-interactive products.
Several limitations do exist for mobile augmented reality however. People probably won’t want to walk down the street holding their phones out in front of them everywhere they go, but more practical applications such as converting street signs into other languages could be useful. Smart phone capabilities also are an issue. Mobile augmented reality software would require a lot of power, so faster processors and longer lasting batteries would be required.
Still, if Qualcomm can perfect its software, expect to see mobile augmented reality in the near future.