I want my Augmented Reality TV phone!

September 19th, 2009 by Felicity Hughes

Yesterday, after almost of year of cruel teasing and prodding, gadget hounds finally got an up-close look at the Sekai Camera, a highly anticipated Augmented Reality application for mobile phones, named iPhone and Android-based phones.

Tech-man-about-town Nobi Hayashi was one of the lucky ones to attend the event at Loewe, a Spanish fashion ship in Tokyo’s Ginza. As his video shows, Sekai Camera users view their surroundings through the iPhone screen, which displays “Air Tags” floating in an overlay of reality. Tapping a tag brings up relevant info about the onscreen object.  At Loewe, visitors were able to learn more about high-end products (and we can imagine, some folks might need a lot of persuading.)

Wedding the iPhone’s GPS and video capabilities, the app’s creators, Tonchidot Corporation, appear to be targeting retailers in search of a new gimmick, but the camera’s uses aren’t purely commercial. For instance, you could leave a personal review of a restaurant or consult the reviews of previous patrons.  People visiting a new city could look up historical information about buildings that interest them from the local tourist office. In fact, Tonchidot is already aligning itself with a very interesting iPhone-centric tourism project in Gifu Prefecture.

But wait! There’s more! Behold Air Tagging, features include Air Filters (to weed out visual clutter); Air Shouts (to users within a 300 meter radius), Air Pocket (for saving those tags) and even Air Voice (for an audio recording).

So you missed the real-world debut of Sekai Camera on the iPhone? All is not lost. People attending Tokyo Game Show, being held Sept. 24-26, will also get a chance to give it a spin.

While the iPhone interface — with its floating tags  — looks incredible, but it should be noted that Android-based phones are already in on the Augmented Reality act. And let’s be honest, when it comes to global reach, an open-source system feeding off of Google Maps, is hard to beat.

I have to wonder if the Tonchidot develops are fans of “Eden of the East.” In this futuristic anime drama, a group of students develop an app that gives users information about the world and includes face recognition software for identifying people in their vicinity. Likewise, in Dennou Coil, a near-future world is envisioned in which users experience augmented reality and play with virtual objects via special glasses. Perhaps Sekai World’s creators have already considered these possibilities, which is why they’ve chosen to exhibit at Tokyo Game Show.

No details yet as to when Japan can download this hot new way to see the world. For now, we’ll just have to be happy with “coming soon.”

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