Home Hands On with Golfscape AR Rangefinder for iPhone

Hands On with Golfscape AR Rangefinder for iPhone

As the popularity of augmented reality (AR) grows and the technology becomes increasingly easier to develop, it is hard to find an area of our every day lives that is not being augmented. Sports have played a large role in the proliferation of AR – you can thank the technology for telling you where the first-down line is on Sunday – and it’s being brought right down to field level now with mobile applications. Last weekend during a brief vacation, I played a round of golf and was able to test out Golfscape, an iPhone app that helps golfers determine distances with an AR rangefinder.

Golfscape is made by Shotzoom Software, the company behind the popular Golfshot app which provides GPS distances, stat tracking and score keeping. Why the AR functionality isn’t simply packaged in with the original Golfshot app is almost beyond me – it may have something to do with the fact that Shotzoom charges $29.99 for Golfshot and $19.99 for Golfscape.

Both apps leverage a database that contains GPS data for each hole on over 33,000 courses across the globe. Based on the user’s location as determined by the phone’s GPS, the apps can provide highly accurate distance estimations to various points on the course, including greens, bunkers, doglegs and layup points. Golfscape takes it a step further, however, providing this information in a heads-up AR view.

So how well does it work? During my testing while playing nine holes with my father, we were both very impressed with app’s ability to accurately determine our distance from various landmarks on each hole. The app tells you how strong your GPS signal is and will adjust the range of its estimates accordingly, but in most cases the app was very accurate.

At one point I held my phone up, pointed it at the green and waited a few moments for the app to zero in on my distance. Eventually it settled on 73 yards. I looked around on the course for a sprinkler head, which normally has the distance written on it, and there just so happened to be one right next to where I was standing. It had the number “73” written on it.

As for the heads-up augmented reality view, the app does a decent job of displaying the information in perspective, but it could be better. The app wasn’t always accurate in pointing out where the center of the green was, and when panning the phone side to side, the data would skip around the screen. Unlike some other apps, Golfscape is not yet taking advantage of the iPhone 4’s added gyroscope, which provides a far smoother AR experience.

The other problem is not so much one with the app but with the use of smartphones outdoors. The iPhone’s glass screen makes viewing the information very difficult to do on a sunny day, though holding the phone up in the AR view does help avoid some of the glare and brightness problems.

The app defintely has the wow factor that is sure to impress your less tech-savvy golfer friends, but I would suggest sticking with the $29.99 Golfshot app that includes so much more functionality. For just $10 more than Golfscape, you get the same highly accurate GPS distances, plus score keeping and stat tracking – just no fancy AR view.

If anything, Golfscape is a fun app to show off and a great way to explain the complicated field of augmented reality to a layperson. The app sparked interesting dinner conversations that left random family members with a piqued interest in augmented reality. The Ben & Jerry’s AR app didn’t hurt their interest either, and it is that interest that will help push AR into the mainstream.

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