A couple weeks ago, I showed you a sneak preview of one of the most surprising iPhone games ever, Star Wars Arcade: Falcon Gunner, which combines seemingly traditional space combat with augmented reality (AR) for a decidedly unique "Star Wars" experience.
Welcome to The 411, my column answering all your questions about cell phones and cell phone accessories. I receive plenty of questions about these subjects via e-mail, so I figured many of you might have similar queries, too. At times, I might solicit answers from readers if I'm stumped. Send your questions and comments to me at email@example.com. If you prefer to remain anonymous, let me know in the e-mail.
Question: I've done some research, played with the Blackberry Curve and Droid 2 at Verizon, but still can't make up my mind. I want … Read more
Of the products I've seen recently, Intellitar's Virtual Eternity is the most likely to make children cry.
It is a service, which recently released its beta, in which you create an AI-based animated avatar from a picture of yourself and the answers to a questionnaire. Why? So you can bequeath this cloud-based avatar to your descendants. They can then ask your avatar questions about your life, which it will answer by animating virtual lips on a picture of your real face, with a generic voice (unless you pay extra to have the service create a custom voice library … Read more
Think "Star Wars" games have been done to death? I guarantee you've never seen anything like Star Wars Arcade: Falcon Gunner. It's like the PC classic "TIE Fighter" mixed with the ingenious UFO on Tape mixed with the Layar Reality Browser.
Confused? This video might help:
As you can see, the game overlays itself on whatever appears in your iPhone camera lens. Point it at the night sky and, presto, you're blasting TIE fighters in outer space. Point it at the dog and, um, … Read more
Just as catching a whiff of fresh coffee beans can trigger cravings for my own addictive habit of choice, many environmental cues can create a very real physical response in drug addicts.
Studying cravings is an important part of designing treatments for addictions, and scientists have long studied the way in which cues like videos and drug paraphernalia trigger those cravings. Now, one group of researchers are trying to find out if cues in virtual environments like Second Life can produce real drug cravings in addicts as well. And if so, are those cravings neurologically similar to ones resulting from … Read more
How do you increase the odds that a shirt you bought online will fit just right? Well, you could cross your fingers--or enlist the help of a new shape-shifting robot mannequin that shows you how clothes hang on your frame.
The headless robot is part of a virtual fitting room service for retailers created by Estonian start-up Fits.me. Customers shopping at a participating site enter their body measurements online (height, chest, arm length, torso, type, and so on), then see photos of a mannequin shaped just like them "trying on" the item they're eyeing in different sizes and styles.
For now, the robo-mannequin can only step in for male shoppers. Created using scientific algorithms based on more than 30,000 3D human body scans, it can shift into 2,000 different male body shapes (wait, are there really that many male body shapes?!), gaining or losing pecs and biceps with the adjustment of a scroll bar.
The virtual fitting room, which launched earlier this year, is currently being tested by several retailers, including Germany's Quelle and U.K.-based Hawes & Curtis, which makes and sells shirts and other apparel items.
"Not only do we expect it to increase sales," Hawes & Curtis' e-commerce director, Antony Comyns, told the BBC, "but it should also cut down on returns, because customers should be receiving a product that fits perfectly on their bodies." … Read more
If you thought location-aware search and other mobile mapping technologies were cool, hold onto your hat. A new wave of innovation in the mobile market will bring augmented reality to smartphones, allowing users to interact virtually with their surroundings.
Augmented reality, or AR, is a term that refers to technology that superimposes computer-generated content over live images viewed through cameras. The technology, which has been used in gaming and in military applications on computers, has been around for years. But thanks to more sophisticated devices, faster wireless broadband networks, and new developments at the chip level by companies like Qualcomm, it has become inexpensive enough to put into smartphones and tablets.
Even though these are still the early days for the technology--chip vendors like Qualcomm are just now giving demonstrations--augmented reality could have a major impact on smartphones in the coming years.
"The idea that a mobile device knows where I am and can access, manipulate, and overlay that information on real images that are right in front of me really gets my science fiction juices flowing," said Mark Donovan, senior analyst at ComScore. "It's just beginning now, and it will likely be one of the most interesting trends in mobile in the next few years."
Just as location-based services have begun to change how wireless subscribers use their cell phones and marketers reach an increasingly mobile audience, augmented reality will go a step further, bringing a wealth of collected data to users' fingertips.
Today, GPS and other location-based technologies allow people to track and find friends on the go. It allows them to "check in" at particular locations. In other words, wireless subscribers provide information about their surroundings, such as where they are, and that information is stored and shared with others via the Internet cloud. That information can be used so friends can locate you, or it can be used by marketers to send you coupons and other promotions.… Read more
Parrot's AR.Drone is a mash-up of several interesting tech concepts. It's a remote control quadricopter that's piloted via an iPhone/iPod Touch app, while also providing a live-to-screen video feed from its built-in video camera, as well as optional augmented reality gaming apps.
A free App Store download called AR.FreeFlight is necessary for pairing and controlling the Drone. Once set up and installed, you have two flight-control options. In the beginner mode, users hold the left onscreen button to maneuver the Drone with the iPhone's accelerometer--tilt it left and the Drone glides to the … Read more
People who wear makeup (I would have typed "ladies," but this is 2010, after all) might have a new shopping buddy. A system that's powered by IBM technology and being marketed by a company called EZFace uses augmented reality to help customers try on makeup without having to actually use any.
A "virtual mirror" takes a photo of a shopper's face. It then allows shoppers to scan in the barcode of a specific mascara, foundation, eye shadow, blush, lip gloss, and so on, and see how they would look with that makeup applied. It … Read more
We are now messing with things that mankind has no business messing with: confectionary treats.
The mad scientist has created a helmet with goggles that connect to a camera. Wearing the headgear, the subject sees video images of a variety of cookie types and chooses the one that appeals.
Once a cookie flavor is selected, the goggles use augmented reality to make a plain old cookie look like the … Read more