Although a number of augmented reality applications have trickled into Apple’s app store over the last month, a few are still being held back because they don’t have the right application programming interfaces for manipulating live video.
Augmented reality is a young field that lets you superimpose information or graphics over a live camera feed. Think Terminator vision, but on your phone — markers in your viewfinder tell you all about the buildings all around you.
Until late this summer, developers couldn’t get onto the iPhone because they needed public application programming interfaces to manipulate live video. (Apple hadn’t released the right APIs plus you’re not allowed to use private APIs.) That’s why some of the most cutting edge projects like the Layar and Wikitude browsers were launched on Google’s Android platform first.
Last month, an update to the iPhone operating system finally allowed some types of augmented reality apps. Specifically, ones that used the phone’s compass, accelerometer and GPS will work. With these apps, you can do a screen overlay, which puts data over the live camera feed without interfering with the feed directly. An example is Nearest Tube, which shows nearby subway stops with boxes of superimposed information.
But the prototypes that came out earlier this year that use marker-based augmented reality technology can’t get onto the iPhone. Marker-based AR uses two-dimensional patterns or barcodes in a camera feed to tell the app to insert 3-D images in their place. Apple hasn’t released APIs to handle this kind of work.
“Most of the super-cool conceptual videos and demos out there are completely locked out,” wrote Robert Rice, the chief executive of augmented reality startup Neogence Enterprises. Rice said this will jeopardize the iPhone as a hotbed for augmented reality innovation.
So who has gotten in so far?
France’s Presselite with its Bionic Eye and subway series of apps:
The U.K.’s AcrossAir with its similar line of subway-finding apps. They were one of the very first.
Austria’s Mobilizy released Wikitude just last week.
And who has been left out so far?
The Netherlands’ Layar just submitted their app last week.
Germany’s Metaio has some augmented reality apps for the iPhone but they use photos, not video.
The U.S.’s Ogmento and its upcoming augmented reality game for children: