Nokia’s Blue Sky Ideas

The opening of Nokia’s Palo Alto research center last week was a good event to see a lot of experimental mobile ideas and projects — most which will likely never see the light of production. One that we really hope does make the cut is a project called “mobile augmented reality,” which uses a video camera phone, combined with orientation sensors, a compass, bluetooth, and GPS to tag and ad information to the images viewed on the screen.

Nokia research engineer David Murphy, who has been working on the project for a couple years now, showed off a demo of a tricked-out video-enabled smart phone (see photo) that tags and adds information to the incoming video feed. Point the video phone at a landscape and the application uses location and orientation technology to identify and add information to the real time image.

The device uses an accelerometer to determine orientation, a compass for direction, a GPS for location, and connects to a database over cellular to identify objects. The result is that when you aim the video phone at, say, a restaurant on the corner, you can pull up and display information like the name and phone number of the business.

Or that’s the idea at least. It’s still just a tiny demo in Helsinki. Obvious difficulties will be figuring out how to run the application without immediately crushing the battery life, as well as getting all the additional sensor hardware into a device that isn’t too big or expensive. But the application already has consumer-friendly features like when the device is flat (the screen pointed up) a map with your location appears.

Murphy isn’t sure if the project will ever make it into production, but has high hopes that it will. We do too.


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