iPhone 4 was introduced to the world earlier this month, we discussed how various additions might improve the user experience for mobile augmented reality (AR), including the forward-facing camera, the gyroscope and the high-resolution screen. The most important improvement, however, is the addition of live camera access, and metaio, one of the largest players in the AR space, has already taken advantage of the opportunity. Over the weekend, the iPhone version of the company's AR browser junaio was updated to support for live image tracking and recognition - a first for browsers on the iPhone.When the
Earlier in June, metaio launched junaio Glue which provided image-based tracking and recognition to the Android version of their mobile AR browser. Image tracking allows users to view and interact with animated 3D objects in virtual space when they point their device at a specific image or barcode. In the past, this kind of experience was only available on desktop or laptop computers, but the growth of smartphone technology has opened the door to desktop-like AR experiences on mobile devices. iOS 4.0 has made this experience available on Apple's wildly popular iPhone, and metaio is the first to implement it.
Want to try it out? Here's how. Live as of right now in the AppStore and the Android Marketplace is an updated version of junaio. In the app you can find the "junaio Glue" Channel either in the "New and Featured" category or in search results for "Glue" in the browser. Then, simply point your phone's camera at the superhero guy you see to the right (click the image for a larger version, it works better) and a 3D model with interactions and animations should appear. By pressing on the model, he will shoot his Metroid-like gun/arm, though no sounds are played when he does so. Also when I tried this on Android the model appeared upside down for some reason.
When I sat down with metaio co-founder and CTO Peter Meier earlier this month, he expressed to me the company's vision for mobile AR. While many mobile browsers have aimed to help people find things outdoors, Meier thinks the promising future of mobile AR is with indoor experiences.
"AR is super cool but not enough to change peoples habits - people aren't going to go outdoors more," says Meier. "Brand experiences are where the money is - sitting on a couch in a warm living room where no one is watching you hold your phone up."
With its Glue image tacking technology, the Munich-based company has a significant head start on other AR browsers. Layar - a browser with millions of users, over one thousand layers of content and a handful of partnerships with handset manufacturers - announced earlier this month that it hopes to include image tracking in its API and browser by the end of the year. By that time, metaio will have been providing mobile image tracking for as many as six to seven months.
Live image tracking on mobile phones is a likely catalyst for the proliferation of augmented reality advertising. Vendors like Total Immersion have seen excellent success and terrific revenues on desktop AR ad campaigns, and it would only make sense that these revenues will easily shift to mobile as the technology matures.
The battle seems to be which browser consumers will use to access the content, and Layar and junaio look like the current front-runners for browsers. Metaio will also include live tracking into its Unifeye Mobile SDK that lets third party app developers create their own apps independent of the browser - a competitor to Total Immersion's D'Fusion Mobile SDK. With its presence in both desktop and mobile based solutions, including both mobile browser and SDK offerings, metaio is in a good position to cover a lot of ground for potential AR marketing clients.