Mobilizy, makers of the Wikitude World Browser, are close to releasing their latest creation, Wikitude Drive, an app that combines AR technology with turn-by-turn driving directions. The app works by taking live video of the road captured by a smartphone mounted on the dashboard or windshield and super imposing the direction data onto it. The company announced late last week that beta testing with 2,000 volunteers had been concluded, signaling that the company may be close to publicly launching the app on the Android marketplace.Augmented reality (AR) developers
As the company points out, taking your eyes off the road to look at a 3D map on your GPS device can be dangerous. With Wikitude Drive's directions (provided by Navteq) placed onto a live video of the road, the dangers of glancing at an illustrated map are reduced. To get an idea of how the app works, check out the video below released by Mobilizy last week showing some road tests.
As you can see, the app quite skillfully places the directions on the live video of the road, but the size of the path and arrow still leaves a large blind area for drivers. You can also see the directions jitter a bit when the car is in a tunnel, a problem with the GPS signal weakening in the tunnel. What this also tells us is that the app is not yet able to take advantage of the live video feed as much as it would like to.
Due to platform limitations, the app cannot digest the live video and map the directions more accurately to the road. While it does a fair job of guessing where the road is, the ability to process the road and run it through image recognition technology would make it much more accurate. Mobilizy says they are working on an iPhone version of the app as well - a platform that will soon support live video processing with an upcoming OS update.
With Wikitude Drive, users can quickly switch to a traditional elevated 3D map view by touching the screen, but which perspective will drivers use? Depending on the price of the app, Android users may download the app for the basic directions to save some money. The other common concern with these apps is what happens when a phone call comes in while providing directions? Can users easily answer and call and continue to receive directions? Or will they be interrupted and forced to later relaunch the application?
Either way, Wikitude Drive seems like a great use of augmented reality and a logical next step for the platform. Mobilizy says it plans to integrate the Wikitude World Browser, and it's database full of points-of-interest, into Wikitude Drive in the future. Combine this type of direction capability with GM's idea for an augmented reality windshield and a fascinating future of cars with heads-up-displays could be just around the corner.