Next in the mobile space: Augmented reality
- Eden Estopace () - July 31, 2010 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - With a $200,000 price dangle, Qualcomm has announced an international competition for developers for the best applications developed using the company’s augmented reality platform.

The inaugural Augmented Reality Application Developer Challenge will start in November when the software developer kit (SDK) is made available for download and entries will be accepted until Jan. 7, 2011.

According to Qualcomm, three winners will be announced at the Mobile World Congress 2011 to win cash prizes of $125,000 for first place, $50,000 for second place, and $25,000 for third place.

Qualcomm’s efforts at augmented reality may be a portent of things to come in the mobile space.

“We are really still only at the beginning of what is possible for next-gen experiences,” said Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs at the opening of the inaugural Uplinq 2010 mobile developer conference in San Diego, California recently.

“In a not so distant future, we see a world where everyone is connected to all the things that matters to them the most. So it is a world where people and information have actually presence and contact, where information is discoverable and personal,” Jacobs said.

And how might this world future look like?

“What we are looking at is the Internet of everything,” said Jacobs. The idea is when your device is with you, it will always be connected not just to people and data but all the things around you. Your mobile phone becomes a remote control for your life. In the physical world, it will give you control over things like screen, speakers, microphones and user interfaces. But in the digital world, it will connect you to all the information and entertainment you want and need to the cloud or the things that are scattered all around you.”

There are a lot of incremental advances in technology that will bring all these to life, according to the Qualcomm CEO.

Vision-based augmented reality, for one, enables mobile applications that merge reality and cyberspace, giving consumers a compelling new interface to the world. Qualcomm believes that augmented reality will be central to future mobile experiences.

“Vision-based augmented reality is something different; it provides a greatly enhanced user experience because it allows graphics to be tightly aligned with real world objects. It uses the camera as a sensor, an electronic eye that recognizes what the users are looking at and this technology has a huge potential,” Jacobs said.

The future of play

One of the companies invited by Qualcomm to be a partner in its early augmented reality efforts is Mattel, the world’s largest toy company.

Mattel has been around from 1965. Its toys like Barbie, Fisher Price, and American girl are part of almost everybody’s childhood. But what would Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em game look like today when augmented reality is thrown into the equation.

“When we think of the world play, you really think of core play patterns,” said Peter Marx, Mattel vice president for technology, at the Uplinq conference.

The new game play of Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em, originally a two-player game that uses mechanically manipulated toy robots, consists of two players pointing their phones to a piece of paper with graphics, which in augmented reality parlance is called a target or a game board. When one points the phone to the game board, one sees live robots and one can use the phone’s controls to deliver kicks and punches until the other robot is knocked off.

“If you ask how this works, I can tell you: it’s magic,” said Marx’s partner during the demonstration.

Mattel has always looked at technology to innovate and focus on creating the future of play, Marx said. Used in the live demonstration were a game board and two Google Nexus phones running on Android 2.1 platform and with Snapdragon 1GHz processor.

“Now imagine what we can do with Barbie and the other toys. This technology allows us to do things that are unimaginable not so long ago,” Marx said.

According to Qualcomm, the entries to the Application Developer Challenge need not be in the field of gaming but could be in any of the varied fields or markets newly opened by the technology, including immersive reality gaming, innovative new media experiences that enable traditional print media and product packaging to come alive, or informational applications that turn complicated instructions and diagrams into interactive tools.

“I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that mobile is changing everything,” said Jacobs. There is, after all, a tremendous application demand for the mobile ecosystem.

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