First Paris Metro, then Yelp, now London Buses. The newest is even selling database layers through in-app purchases.
It has been widely reported that the API required to display Augmented Reality (AR) layers of data on top of the camera view of a non-jailbroken iPhone 3Gs would not be publicly exposed until the launch of the next version of the iPhone Operating System, expected this Fall. Many developers are patiently waiting, but some have now found a way around the restriction. We just received word of the 3rd AR-enabled app hitting the iTunes store.
Earlier this week we reported on Paris Metro Subway as being apparently the first AR-enabled app to be accepted into iTunes. Then, this afternoon Robert Scoble discovered that the new Yelp app includes an AR easter egg that any 3Gs owner can turn on by shaking their phone. Now we've received an email from Presselite, the same company that made Paris Metro Subway, letting us know that its London Bus app has been updated to include AR overlays and is also live in the App Store.
The London Bus app is even selling data sets through in-app purchases. From its iTunes description:
It is now possible to add new Point of Interest (POI) databases to London Bus application via in-app purchase. These options allow you to activate Food & Drink POI, Leisure POI, Attractions POI and Accommodation POI all over the UK.
This AR economy is moving faster than we expected.
All three of these were existing established apps that received AR capabilities in an update, not dedicated AR apps seeking admission for the first time. We've been unable to determine how this was achieved technically (Presselite of course won't say), but rumor has it that the apps may be leveraging a third-party code base called ARToolkit (or iPhoneARToolkit). Others point to software called ChromelessImagePickerController.
Can Apple now fairly deny other apps that seek to bring AR to the iPhone? We can't imagine that they would shut down Yelp's wildly successful app.
Presumably many developers will continue to wait, hoping that the software they've already built will be enabled as soon as next month. Others will probably try to get their apps in ahead of the official announcement of AR support from Apple. That's got to take some wind out of the sails of those companies that have been waiting patiently.
They may only be the beginning and they may not be high-profile or officially supported by Apple yet, but it couldn't be clearer: Augmented Reality apps have come to the iPhone.