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Smartphones Get "Reality Overlay" App 110

Michael_Curator writes to tell us that mobile phones now have a "reality overlay" app that combines a smartphone's camera, GPS, and compass to augment a user's view of a particular location with metadata. "It works as follows: Starting up the Layar application automatically activates the camera. The embedded GPS automatically knows the location of the phone and the compass determines in which direction the phone is facing. Each [commercial] partner provides a set of location coordinates with relevant information which forms a digital layer. By tapping the side of the screen the user easily switches between layers."
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Smartphones Get "Reality Overlay" App

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  • by brouski ( 827510 ) on Friday June 26, 2009 @05:49PM (#28488797)
    Think "Terminator Vision". Red hue optional.
    • by exhilaration ( 587191 ) on Friday June 26, 2009 @06:03PM (#28488969)
      It is sort of like "Terminator Vision", except corporations can buy ad space in it:

      Wake me up when anyone can put their stuff on it.

      • Someone has to pay to keep juice flowing to the servers. Either the app is free/cheap and advertisers pay for it, or it costs and arm and a leg and a subscription and they load it with all kinds of content. If someone were smart and working on building these apps and a business model, they'd do like Google does and put "preferred" results up top, but let all of them through.
    • Think Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex "Cyberbrain version 0.001"

      This will the be the app that will make people it would be great to have a cyberbrain implanted into their brain.

      iBrain coming soon: summer of 2024

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by LucidBeast ( 601749 )
      With current battery technology Terminator would have run out of reality overlay in about 30 minutes.
    • by gmuslera ( 3436 )
      The problem is that it don't display "Kill Sarah Connor" but "Buy shoes there!". But anyway, if we ever want to have terminator vision whoever develops it should have some initial funding, and ads seems to be the candy that makes most public advancements possible lately.
      • by hawk ( 1151 )

        I've long agreed that McDonald's has the least flavor of its competitors, but if you can buy shoes, too, this explains a lot . . .


    • And for a nice video demonstration (the one from TFA sucks) check out the official Layar [] website: []
  • by reginaldo ( 1412879 ) on Friday June 26, 2009 @05:52PM (#28488843)
    Excellent, now the entire world is like a guided museum tour.

    'And on our right here, we have the parking lot that is affectionately nicknamed 'The Hobo's Restroom'. Please watch your step.'
    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Friday June 26, 2009 @05:56PM (#28488877) Journal
      "Each [commercial] partner provides a set of location coordinates with relevant information which forms a digital layer."

      We weren't content with just the billboards that reality already has...
      • Think of the money that can be saved by putting up floating billboards and whatnot in cyberspace and how many billboard workers we can fire after this is implemented.

      • by Jeff DeMaagd ( 2015 ) on Friday June 26, 2009 @06:14PM (#28489093) Homepage Journal

        I think it's fair to say that every technology has good and bad uses. If we're only worried about the bad uses of a new idea/tool/etc. then even agriculture wouldn't work.

        • That is fair enough. However, I would argue that it is equally fair to judge whether a given implementation of a given technology is good or bad.
      • Add facial recognition, and we become the content, whether we're content about it or not.
      • We weren't content with just the billboards that reality already has...

        The great thing is, this app will just grey out those billboards with competitors on it! Your great new reality will not be muddled with the useless drivel of our competitors!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Except that the world isn't a museum, and I don't need a guided tour of every chain convenience store within walking distance at any given time.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        You simpleminded dilettante.

        Imagine a layer permanently on your phone.
        Whenever you're in a new city, filter by whatever beer you like, or for pubs within the top 20% ratings for the city.

        • That beer functionality alone will sell this for 50% of the population!

          • Shit. That not only will sell me the app, but I'll buy the phone as well. Been looking for an excuse to get a G1...
            • by wampus ( 1932 )

              Keep looking, it's dreadful about 20% of the time. I do love it the other 80% to be fair.

              • by jc42 ( 318812 )

                Keep looking, it's dreadful about 20% of the time. I do love it the other 80% to be fair.

                Heh. My wife has an iPhone and I have a G1. We've used their GPS with one of us driving while the other watches our track, and it can be quite entertaining at times. Right now, we're at home in a western suburb of Boston. My G1 shows its position as about 100 miles southeast of here, well out in the ocean east of Cape Cod. Occasionally, it pops over to some woods about half a mile to the south, sits there a while,

                • by jc42 ( 318812 )

                  I wrote: ... 20 miles east of Cape Code.

                  Oops; it's obvious that I've been doing too much coding lately. ;-)

                  Though with a good laptop and an open access point somewhere nearby, it can be fun to code sitting out on the beach with nobody but gulls and sandpipers around as a distraction.

                • by maxume ( 22995 )

                  I think they are probably going to have trouble inside for quite a long time.

                • Wow. I've got a Blackberry 8800, and it's GPS will show (correctly) whether I'm near the front or the back of my house. I noticed my wife's G1 will lock on similarly accurately when it finally locks, but it doesn't lock to GPS nearly as well as my crackberry. I'm actually thinking about the new MyTouch (aka HTC Magic), since she got the G1 with my contract extension due to her old Windows mobile phone being a POS.
          • And the and features should account for the other 50%.
        • I bet you had to scroll a long way down your Terminator list of responses past "Yes", "No" and "Fuck You Asshole" to find "You simpleminded dilettante".

      • Think of it as Reality 2.0: Extreme Shopping and Bear Avoidance* Application

        *We are not responsible for any bear maulings that occur while using our product.
    • Except it won't be run exclusively by family-friendly institutions. There will be a lot of other content in out of the way places. Some of it will be encoded with euphemisms, slang terms, steganography, encryption, etc., and will be cross-referenced to more detailed information on the net.

      Don't worry, there will be something for everyone.
  • FTA:

    Integration with redemption systems to provide user value (i.e. book here now for 50% off)

    Oh goody -- not only can i get great features but I can get a discount on the ones I don't already have --- THANKS!!~

  • instead of simply using satellites orbiting the earth we write programs on these phones that request to be triangulated by surrounding phones in order to develop a cellular sense of location, like a layer of atmospheric nerves relaying locational awareness data constantly? then as pictures are taken the location can be stored in a database and a digital reconstruction of reality can be created. why drive a car with a camera on top when you can get humanity to do all the work for free by providing a servic
    • ... as pictures are taken the location can be stored in a database and a digital reconstruction of reality can be created. why drive a car with a camera on top when you can get humanity to do all the work for free by providing a service?!

      Interesting idea. But I doubt the phones will be uploading pictures to a database until the pricing structure of data plans changes.

      The service will be less competitive against other similar services if it chews up your data allocation by uploading pictures while the compe

  • Sure it's cool, but can anyone give me a situation where they would actually use this in real life? I'm still waiting on the basic stuff, like Flash.

    • Here's one:

      Our intrepid explorer stands in the middle of the block on a dark evening in a strange part of town. He scans his surroundings with his cell phne until he sees the small red letters "GFE" hovering over the door of an apartment in a building across the street. Bingo.
    • You never visit foreign countries?

    • by HiThere ( 15173 )

      Read "Halting State" by Charles Stross. (True, the version he was writing about was a bit more advanced...but it's clearly the same thing.)

      Or read "The California Voodoo Game" by Larry Niven et. al. Again, a slightly more advanced version. If you've got a flexible imagination then you could try "Dream Park" (same author). There he was talking about holographic projections, but this is the same sort of thing, and there he was talking about something not much more advanced than this.

      N.B.: All of these s

  • by SoVeryTired ( 967875 ) on Friday June 26, 2009 @06:12PM (#28489067)

    I wake up in the darkness, totally lost. I fumble for my smartphone, knowing it's the only was I'll manage to reach home before dawn.
    What I see is not comforting.

    "It is pitch black. You are likely to be eaten by a grue."

  • by peter303 ( 12292 ) on Friday June 26, 2009 @06:15PM (#28489099)
    "Here are all the trees and bushes nearby big enough to pee behind"
  • If I want to know what building I'm looking at, I'll read the letters on it, not some ad on my phone.

  • Haven't relatively mature technologies like GPS devices been providing augmented reality for some time now? I mean, my GPS can show me the location of Dunkin Donuts shops long before I can see them on the street. Integrating the GPS-located items in the camera view seems to be the only innovation here.
    • Haven't relatively mature technologies like GPS devices been providing augmented reality for some time now? I mean, my GPS can show me the location of Dunkin Donuts shops long before I can see them on the street. Integrating the GPS-located items in the camera view seems to be the only innovation here.

      "Augmented reality", as usually discussed, means overlaying data relevant to the current view over a normal view of the world, so the part that it adds is the part that makes it "augmented reality".

      OTOH, it so

  • Rainbow's End (Score:2, Interesting)

    by valley ( 240947 )
    Sounds a lot like the tech in Vernor Vinge's Rainbow's End []. Once again, the prescience of SF...
    • "Prescience" entails a great deal of paying attention.

      I tried to buy Vinge lunch at CHI '99, but he declined, saying that he had to meet with the folks from the MIT wearables group. A Deepness in the Sky was freshly out, but he was already soaking up info to pour into Rainbows End (no apostrophe). I wonder who he's hanging out with now.

      Alas, it doesn't look like his retirement from teaching is having much effect on his cicada-like rate of new releases...

  • Phht (Score:5, Funny)

    by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Friday June 26, 2009 @06:26PM (#28489193) Journal


    Call when they develop THIS app. []

    (Yes, it's sloppy; it was a very quick photoshop.)

    • by Timmmm ( 636430 )

      Presumably yes. Just need to link your facebook profile to your location (and get everyone else to do that).

    • MOD PARENT INSIGHTFUL! as long as the search/index software can be "really fast" compared to what we can do today, it'd be a really simple application to write: a mashup of facial recognition, records lookup @ doctor (requires hack into secure db), social networking "interests" grep, etc...
    • OMG she's broken that glass, someone should tell her before she cuts herself.
  • Just add face reconginiton to the camera and upload your personal profiles. Wella you now know who you jsut saw in the street
  • How long will it take for the National Sex Offender Registry overlay to be created? Then you can be sure your kids are safer, when your phone alerts you to a nearby sex offender. []
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by jameskojiro ( 705701 )

      Put a chip in all of the offenders so that when your kid's cell phone gets close to them, like say 30ft the phone starts playing the "Danger, Danger Will Robinson" sound clip from the Lost in Space TV series.

    • How long will it take for the National Sex Offender Registry overlay to be created?

      About twenty minutes after one of the developers reads your post.

  • So this wouldn't really just be another means for greedy people to control and manipulate my perception and information in such a way that it benefits them? Like having selective "points of interest" in navigation and mapping software, those inclusions only being available to those "points" willing to pony up a chunk of dough for the privilege?

    This "reality overlay" is really about reality control/filtering.

  • Back when Google was running the first round of the Android programming challenge, a lot of excitement was generated by an augmented reality app called Enkin. To everybody's surprise, it didn't make it into the first round of finals, and seemd to disappear from sight. Turns out that Google had some other plans for them [].

    I did see one AR app in action on a G1, but I don't remember what it was called. The results were so-so... Hit and miss, sometimes it would get the buildings right, sometimes it wouldn't. But

    • You're probably thinking of Wikitude, which has been around for a while, and overlays wikipedia information on buildings and landmarks. It's a pretty cool app, and a bit more altruistic than Layar (which does it for commercial purposes).
  • For those not familiar with augmented reality [] a very recent Japanese anime series called Denno Coil [] is a good place to start.
  • I'm a sorcerer level 40 and I already have this ad free, oh and several hundred AutoM8s under my control..
  • I downloaded some program for my Android phone months ago that did this. It didn't have ads either, it just pulled data from free sources (mostly wikipedia).

    And you know what? It was stupid and useless then, it's stupid and useless now, and advertising in it isn't going to make it any less stupid and useless.

    Also, using GPS and accelerometers in tandem to give spatially relevant information isn't remotely a new idea either. The Sky Map program for Android has been doing that too for some time. Guess
    • by Fallen Seraph ( 808728 ) on Friday June 26, 2009 @07:27PM (#28489689)
      First off, you're thinking of Wikitude, and I agree, it's not original, the idea's been around for a while, it just hasn't been entirely feasible till now.

      But it's far from useless. Just because YOU don't have a use for it doesn't mean others don't. I, for instance, am a huge astronomy buff, and think that Google Sky Map is very cool. Instead of spending an hour orienting and aligning my telescope to Polaris, and constantly tweaking it, I can point my phone at the sky and it's tell me what I'm looking at and where to find other objects. Very handy for me, not so handy for someone who doesn't go outside.

      Last year I spent a week in Europe, including Prague, and would've loved to have Wikitude point out building data and points of interest. It's a brilliant tool for tourists.

      The technology is VERY useful, but it's only in it's infancy right now. Once upon a time people thought GPS was useless when it was first introduced to the commercial sector. Now many people can barely drive without it. Whether you like it or not, semantically associating data online with reality is the future, and makes that data infinitely more useful.

      PS - Maybe you'd find a use for it if you ever went outside ;)
      • See, while I actually do find this useful for traveling, etc., it's actually a rather weak form of true AR.

        For it to be the real deal, first of all, requires a heads up display be it a corneal implant, actual functional eyeglass display or whatever. It needs to have the ability to contextually figure out what I'm doing and respond appropriately. Say for instance I'm working on my car and I'm not sure exactly how a part is supposed to fit. A true AR setup would just overlay a holographic image of the

        • Well that's a given. The original commercial GPS units didn't have built in maps, points of interest, or much else. They were used by hikers and people who love in less than accessible terrain mostly. All technology must start somewhere...
        • Real-life Adblock? Imagine installing a set of filters to never see TV commercials, billboards or girl's pants---err any ads ever again.
      • I agree, I've had this idea for a long time, just like many others. Having an idea is one thing, executing is another. I've always thought that a HUD with accelerometers and compass (like the iPhone has) would be neat, but HUDs aren't quite ready for mainstream usage and probably won't be until they look like normal glasses and are easy to use (including the software that you're using them with). This products looks neat, especially how it takes advantage of existing tech products. How successful it will be

  • there was a game that layered the 'real world' video with CG characters.

  • I was telling people twenty or more years ago that I wanted a handheld device that I could take on the trail, hold up, look through like a little window, and see an overlay showing trail distances, climbs/descents, geographic feature names, and so forth. In 1990, you could do it as a slow, clumsy demo on a "handheld device" tethered to a room full of equipment. Now, with GPS, built-in cameras and good inertial tracking, we're really just a good eye-tracking layer away from a true implementation.

  • by William Gibson (author of Neuromancer,) where artists started using goggles, GPS info and 3D modeling to create an alternate reality featuring their works.

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Friday June 26, 2009 @07:09PM (#28489571) Homepage

    When Google StreetView can get the street numbers right, this might actually work.

    For now, it's just going to be another ad delivery system.

    The cool app for this would be one that, when you enter a restaurant or store, sounds an alarm if the business has a problem, like a poor Yelp rating, a poor BBB rating, a poor health department rating, etc.

    • by n30na ( 1525807 )
      What about if people on slashdot didnt like it? Oh, wait, then it would vibrate anytime it existed. Or at least weren't at a computer.
    • by maxume ( 22995 )

      Doesn't Yelp have a poor Yelp rating that they paid Yelp to hide?

  • Smartphones Get "Reality Overlay" App

    Reality overlay? Ha ... I'm guessing Steve Jobs is behind this one.

  • Am I the only one on here that thinks of Dennou Coil or Eden of the East (Higashi no Eden) when I read about thiss? I would love to have an augmented reality ala Dennou Coil, complete with the glasses, but Eden of the East-style identification would be fun, too.

    • by heucuva ( 59104 )

      I immediately thought of Higashi no Eden, as well, when I saw this. Speaking of 'Eden, it was a great show, but it ended way too soon. I just hope the movie makes up for that.

  • This augmented reality is prominently featured in William Gibson's novel Spook Country. I was talking to a suit about this idea just a couple of weeks ago. He suggested that it was worthwhile pursuing. Now that they seem to have done that, I'm discouraged. Fuck, I'm always too late... :(

  • ... can be found here: []

    I really like this concept and believe it's a viable new way to interact with our environment.

  • Back in 2008, I had a chance to catch Intel's keynote presentation for CES. One of the first items they started out with was an augmented-reality/reality-overlay presentation, based on where they wanted to be in 5 years with the newly announced Atom. In the presentation, Intel had a smartphone-shaped device with a camera and microphone connected to a computer behind the stage. Up front they had a mock Chinese street that the presenters moved through, pointing the camera at various items. They were showcasin

  • by Jim Hall ( 2985 ) on Saturday June 27, 2009 @10:11AM (#28494493) Homepage

    For those of you who read Wm Gibson's Virtual Light [] (1994) I'd guess we're a step closer ... :-)

    If you haven't read it, the book centers around a pair of special glasses that sport "Virtual Light". The concept of VL adds optical data for the wearer. In the book, this can be whatever supplemental data you've uploaded. Load the right data, and when you look at a garden though the VL glasses, you get a little tag overlayed on each plant, telling you that plant's name and other info. Cops might see forensic data overlayed when they look at a crime scene. Or a land developer might see future, planned buildings in place of what's there now.

    In the book, the macguffin [] was supposedly the Virtual Light glasses, but really it was the data on them and what it meant to the data owner.

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