Tag Archives: droid

Augmented Reality? Really?

I have tried over 100 apps on my new Super-Droid, the HTC Incredible.  One of the more interesting and  hyped areas is that of Augmented Reality.  Here is the  Wikipedia definition for AR –

Augmented reality (AR) `is a term for a live direct or indirect view of a physical real-world environment whose elements are augmented by virtual computer-generated imagery. It is related to a more general concept called mediated reality in which a view of reality is modified (possibly even diminished rather than augmented) by a computer. As a result, the technology functions by enhancing one’s current perception of reality.”

On my Droid, most AR applications are a mash-up of GPS, Google search, camera viewing, compass heading and overlay visuals.   The overlays are anything from tourist locations, buildings, roads, bars, restaurants, and of course Starbucks.   You look at your phone as the phone’s camera looks at the world and adds its own heads up display (HUD).

While these apps have an “Ubber-Cool” factor, AR does not yet seem to have found its mainstream raison d’être.  Its fun to show your friends and get them to say  -“ooo”, and “ah”, but then what?

Who is going to walk around holding their 4 inch screen in front of them while looking for something and following an arrow in their AR world?  All sorts of enhanced navigation programs, either for driving, walking, hiking or public transit already exist with great mapping displays.  The potential fro AR is likely huge in the future as the applications further develop.  But for now, it is early days.

If you want to try out AR for and judge for yourself here are 5 programs you can download for free on a Droid.

-Layar

A Legal Neighbor listed as a "Bar" - needs some work..

Layar  (get it –  LayAR) is an environment that permits others to development AR functionality on displays and maps. It is in essence an AR aggregation platform – an AR browser- that is mostly ad supported with some premium subscription services.  I can use my virtual Droid HUD to find everything from apartments, nearby Tweeters, Foursquare locations,  local wikipedia entries and even the weather.  Weather?  Yep – look through the HUD and see an AR cloud superimposed in your view with the temperature on it.  There is even a weather app for tornado warnings.   If you have to look through the phone to determine you are looking at a Tornado, its may be Darwin Award time.

A Landmark on Foursquare

Just because you can do something with technology does not mean you have to do it!  Similar to overall smartphone apps, let a million apps bloom and something good will happen.

Here is the web catalog of all Layar powered AR apps.

-Laser Level

The program superimposes perpendicular red “laser” lines in your HUD to help you straighten that picture you just hung.  The app works pretty good, but not really efficient for hanging pictures and I would still want my contractors to use a physical level.

-3D Compass

This app floats a compass and a map on your screen, along with speed and altitude.

Its fun to play with this app when I take NJ Transit into NYC.  For the record, the trains hit a top speed of around 60 mph, New York is east of New Jersey, and the train rarely gets airborne.

-Zagat NRU

This is a curious app that displays all Zagat rated venues within circular range bands, arranged by compass heading.  Its great to showpeople, but then what?  Okay gang lets go to this new Italian restaurant; we have to walk at 37.6 degrees  NNE for 1.5 km?

-NYC Wayfinder

Hold up your HUD display and it will point out subway entrances.  Does it also paint a target on your back and add a European carry-all to you, virtually?

The potential for AR applications exists and like any technology in its early phases, many potential uses will be explored.  What is amazing is how relatively easy it is to make this apps with the basic tools and capabilities of the Android (and yes, iPhone too)

What will the killer AR apps be?  I have two predictions for AR apps.

My first prediction is for massive multi-user, AR enhanced games.  Pick your favorite version of Human/Zombie, Capture the Flag, etc –   and have all the players be able to track each other in an AR enhanced world and even “shoot” each other and record “hits”, all in augmented reality.  This can take the collaborative gaming experience of the XBOX 360 and get everyone outside actually running around and exercising.  Just like kids did before computer games.  Ironic…..  Of course this is what he U.S. military does, for real. So who would be most motivated to fund and produce such an app?

Another interesting app, assuming the key development enabler of cheap AR viewing glasses will be virtual tours.  Instead of holding a small screen, view the AR world all the time?  I could easily see tourists using these to get around various venues and even have embedded virtual tour guides pointing out local areas of interest.  Imagine visiting the ancient Roman port of Caesarea in Israel and having your virtual guide enhance your view to show you what it really looked like 2000 years ago – virtually. For Real.

Advertisements

Comments Off on Augmented Reality? Really?

Filed under Augmented Reality, Droid, Droid Incredible, E-Commerce, facebook, Google, HTC, HTC Incredible, humor, iphone, Ipod, mobile, mobile advertising, Mobile Application Stores, mobile commerce, mobile games, New York, reviews, social networking, Twitter, Verizon, wireless

HTC Droid Incredible – The Rest of the Story (Spoiler Alert!)

What Droid Incredible Really Does – and Does Not (Unofficial Review)

After resisting Droid-Rage during the holiday season, I succumbed to the uber- hyped latest Android super phone – the HTC Incredible.  My venerable Blackberry Curve just was not as sleek or sexy and clearly did not have the cool robot graphics.

There are numerous blog reviews and YouTube videos that will espouse all the virtues of Verizon’s number 1 smartphone.  While they are largely correct, they do not tell the whole story.  Yes it is fast, works on a great network, has more features that a human can possibly comprehend, or use – and even makes phone calls.   I will provide another article with my fav Droid features – this article is about the other side.

To quote Paul Harvey  – “And now the rest of the story….”  Here are my top six issues with my Droid.

1. Speed comes at a cost – The Achilles Heal of the Incredible

All the blazing application response and connectivity comes at a cost in battery utilization.  The first day I had my Droid I had to charge it 2 times.  What good is all that capability if the phone is dead?  If you get a Droid you must stay close to a charging source and become an active energy manager.  You should turn-off the GPS when not needed, limit the number of running applications and even re-consider all of those really cool active widgets which use periodic connectivity to update themselves.   If you need an icon of the sun to let you know its sunny outside, perhaps you need more than a new phone.

2. The display rocks – unless you want to use it outside during the day

The AMOLED technology used in the HTC screen is the latest, but not quite the greatest.  The display is great when used inside.  I just got back from a round of golf and the phone was practically unusable in the sunlight.  The bigger issue is using the super Google driving directions app with a map view.  The map will not be viewable in a car during the day!

3. Its not the number of Apps that matters – its having the right ones and ones that actually work

I never got that impressed with the claims of absolute number of apps on device platforms.  If the iPhone has 300K and the Android 30K , what does that really mean?  It’s a little like counting the number of Nukes that the U.S. and Russia have in their arsenals. .  Quality, not quantity really matters. Android has the basic Facebook and Skype apps.  Its the other 30K that may need some help.  My impression is that the apps on the iPhone are not just more numerous, but are generally of higher quality.   Perhaps the Android platform chased absolute numbers to claim lots of apps without as much quality consideration.  Several apps just did not work at all and others just stopped working.  I tried to download the linkedIn app and had a failure.  This is an area that the Android platform will likely get right at some point.

I want quality apps for the handful I will actually use.  Android has to close the app quality gap with Apple.

4. iTunes Integration – Music and Video – ???

The iPhone clearly excels at music and video desktop integration.  The challenge for any other platform is to create seamless integration for their platforms with the defacto standard for online music. Given the critical nature of this feature, one might assume that HTC or Verizon would provide a solution that makes this happen.

And you would assume wrong.  There are a couple of solutions that purported to achieve this function.  I tried both SailingMedia and DoubleTwist.  Both of these third-party solutions did not work.  While I could probably play with them for another hour or so and figure out what the issue is – why should I have to do that?  I did load my music directly by dragging my music to the mp3 folder on my device.  The music plays fine and the external speaker is loud –if that matters to you.  There does not appear to be a pre-loaded video player and I have yet to get a video, other than YouTube to play successfully.  Again, I’m sure I will figure it out – but why should I have to?

5. Gmail Good – Gmail Bad

I use gmail for my personal email domain, I figured that the Android platform would be a good choice for my use.  For the record my Blackberry worked perfectly with my gmail account.  As expected my gmail account integrated easily with my Droid.  My issue with email is the rather poor gmail app on the device.  I tried to use the HTC mail app and for whatever reason it does not seem to work when my gmail application is active.  As with my other issues, I am sure with a little time I can get it to work.

6. Steve Jobs is right – One button is enough

The Incredible Droid has 7 physical buttons -Home, Menu, Back, Search, optical trackball with click, volume and power/wake-up.  In addition to these physical inputs the standard screen has four soft keys – an up arrow to access all programs, a phone button (yes it can make a phone call!), a “+” key for adding widgets, programs and folders to a screen, and lastly a hidden slide down at the top of the screen that gives a list of alerts and running programs.  Wow – that’s a lot of things to keep straight!.  The really annoying input is the totally useless optical track ball and click selector that just happens to occupy the same spot as the single “home” key on the iPhone.  Needless to say, I have been pushing that click selector by accident through pure muscle memory from my iPhone and iTouch.  An optical trackball on a touch screen device?  Why?

Despite these issues, I am sure I will get around the downsides of this device and make it into a very useful tool for business and personal use.  However, how many customers will take the time to become an I.T. manager for their phone?

For the past several years I carried my Blackberry for phone use and light Internet use and an iTouch for fun.  The true test will be if I go to one device.

The iPhone, like all Apple products – just works out of the box.  The Droid can work, and even do more, but you have to know what you are doing and be willing to investigate the necessary solutions.  The Droid is clearly still rough around the edges.

3 Comments

Filed under Apple, Droid, HTC, Incredible, Incredible, iPad, iphone, Ipod, iTunes, mobile, Mobile Application Stores, mobile commerce, skype, smart phone, Smartphone, Social Media, Steve Jobs, Verizon, wireless

Google clicks in for Mobile

googleDuring the past week Google made two significant splashes in the mobile arena. Their much heralded, bombing of middle America with Stealth fighters announced the landing of the “Droid” mobile device. Secondly, their acquisition of the leading U.S. mobile advertising company, Admob for $750M announced the full legitimacy of mobile advertising. When Google speadmobaks, the rest of the industry should listen.

There was a time, not too long ago, when an entire industry seemed to get a simultaneous epiphany – that the Internet had created a legitimate “second” screen to television.  When this became “conventional wisdom”, the advertising Dollars, Euros and Yen started to shift from the “spray and pray” methods of television to the increasingly targeted methodologies of the web.

The same thought process can now be safely referred to as “conventional wisdom” for mobile.  The consumer is spending more time starring at their mobile screen, and less and less at their Web browsers, and even far less in front of the television.  With this reality, the web advertising giant is shifting more investment to the third screen  – which we should refer to as the consumers prime screen, the mobile screen.

We have transitioned from TV ad blindness (really a Pavlovian queue to go to the frig or bathroom), to web banner blindness.  We now, however, have the personal medium of the smartphone to reach consumers.

We have moved from the communal family device, the television, to a shared, yet personal device, the PC to the personal and un-shared device, the smartphone.

There will be some winners and losers in this new reality.  The winners will be companies that have invested ahead of the curve and have developed mobile and true multimodal next gen advertising vehicles.   Advertising and promotional technologies and processes that have broken with the “spray and pray” techniques of the past and capitalize on the true personal 1-1 advertising techniques, providing consumers ads that they want to view, will be the market winners.

The Android has positioned Google to be in your pocket, not figuratively, but literally.  The combined promotion with VZW and Moto, with stealth bombers creating a thinly veiled a sense of “Shock and Awe”, is a loud statement.

(Note to the Droid ad agency – Stealth bombers do not fly during the day, hence the word “stealth”)

See my other comments on the ad campaign at the end of this blog article.

VZW is a company with a great network and a lagging device lineup. Moto has raw engineering and production talent for mobile devices and has largely fallen off the radar screen in recent years.  Google, the dominant player in the present  generation of Internet advertising, is seeking to maintain and grow that position in the next generation.

So, Google is playing a pre-emptive attack strategy in mobile. VZW is playing catch-up to the iPhone.  Moto is, perhaps, playing their last “bet the company” card on Android technology.  Offense, defense and survival makes for three very motivated partners.

With the expected proliferation of Droids and other smartphones, Google’s purchase of ADMob is both stunning and obvious.   Another winner in this market shift will be, as I have written about in the past, the major social networks.

So who are the losers this past week?

On the Wireless Carrier side of the equation, Sprint and T-Mobile have to be concerned.  The gap between them and the leaders  (AT&T and VZW) is widening.   I  expect one less mobile service company in the U.S. in the next 12 months.

The emergence of Android platforms is likely the end of Palm as a mobile platform.  The Palm Pre never got the consumers attention and thus critical market share.

Too little, too late.

Palm will not be able to compete with Google and Apple in this round.  Their demise is written on the wall (in Graffiti).

500x_smartphonemarkshareRIM also has to be very concerned.  The launch of their touch screen device, the Storm was, well, stormy.   Blackberry has a strong market position and is well entrenched.  It has made significant growth in the consumer segment in recent years.  Will that growth reverse with maturing Android devices?  While Blackberry is in a much stronger position than Palm, the combined investment potential and application resources of Apple and Google will be a major challenge to RIM’s Blackberry.

All that said, RIM still commands over 20% global share in smartphones

Application developers will have to start to prioritize their porting and promotion of new applications between four major global platforms – Symbian,  Blackberry, Apple and Android.

It will be interesting to watch the global leader in the smartphone category – Nokia and their Symbian Operating System.  This platform is relatively unknown in the U.S. market, but is dominate in the rest of the world.

The next obvious question is how do these moves motivate other players in the industry to react?  Microsoft is desperately playing catch-up to Google in present generation search engines and advertising.  Their own version of a mobile operating system has made, at best, niche inroads.  Microsoft has suffered from execution issues and seems to be the biggest example of true  “innovators dilemma” in the last 20 years.

Yahoo has some mobile applications but seems to be a company unable to focus the attention necessary on any one initiative.  Perhaps some Corporate Ritalin is in order?

My conclusion is that both Microsoft and Yahoo will likely go shopping for a focused next gen advertising company.

Ad Agencies that have largely focused on managing creative production and bulk television ad buying are increasingly on the wrong side of the technology curve.  They are, however, in a good position with the depth of their industry relationships, to be a major force in the next wave of Internet/Mobile advertising,. The question is are they willing to move from their existing business models and develop the expertise in the methodologies, either in-house or through acquisition that can maintain their market positions in the value chain for the next generation.

The technology of smartphones, advertising and applications has now combined to make the next generation of consumer services and commerce a break from the past.  At least that’s what I hear from all of the “Conventional Wisdom”.

Notes on Droid Ad Campaign:

The more I thought about the Android “Stealth Fighter” ads the more I realized that that imagery was quite familiar.  I have added four additional videos for your viewing.  Theses video are the trailers for the 1953 and 2005 versions of “War of the Worlds” , the trailer for Armageddon and CNN footage of the bombing of Baghdad.

With these videos you can draw your own conclusions.  Please let me know what you think.

In my opinion, these images all have some resemblance to the Droid commercial.  In each of these cases the situation did not end well for the “entrenched” establishment.  Mass destruction was the result.  In one case a virus saved mankind.  This is hardly the message that a smartphone operating system might want to promote.    The droid-like figures eventually emerge to destroy everything in sight –they really do – you can Google it.  In the CNN footage a nation watched mesmerized by the imagery, only to learn that perhaps the wrong war was fought.

All interesting imagery for the first shot in a new generation of smartphones.

Subtle – this is not.

2 Comments

Filed under Acquisitions, advertising, android, Apple, facebook, Google, mobile, mobile advertising, Mobile Application Stores, mobile commerce, smart phone, Smartphone, Social Media, Twitter, Web2.0, wireless, You Tube