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Does Augmented Reality Need a Dedicated Device?

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Augmented reality — the idea of overlaying relevant digital information on top of a view of the real world — is, in a word, futuristic. And while many people are excited about it, many are turned off by all this fuss with not much to show for it. Out of concern that early and incomplete AR demo products make a bad name for the technology, a new startup called QderoPateo is attempting to make an end-to-end platform for augmented reality. That includes building and releasing its own phone chipset, hardware and operating system, as well as APIs, applications, advertising sales and an AR industry consortium.

The QderoPateo Ouidoo phone prototype

Yup, you read that right, a tiny startup is making its own phone — for a market that doesn’t exist yet. But I’ll go ahead and lay out QderoPateo’s idea, as it’s notable for its ambition alone. The company was founded by Steve Chao of China and Matt Gaines of the U.S., who had been working on similar projects separately and found each other online. They raised a Series A round — “several million” from CWG Wireless — before they had actually met. Under the QderoPateo name, they have designed a phone called the Ouidoo, partnered with a Southern Chinese manufacturer, and are working with China Mobile and an unnamed U.S. carrier. They hope to have demos in the spring launch this fall at the Shanghai 2010 World Expo.

“The market has branded many things as AR that aren’t,” said Chao in a phone interview, disparaging projects that use markers such as barcodes to inform a phone of what it is seeing. “The baseline is image recognition.” For the Ouidoo device, Chao promises 2GB RAM and an 8GB chipset with two dual-core parallel processors to handle interactive 3D images. The phone uses triangulation between accelerometers, gyrometers and GPS to calculate its user’s location 10 times more accurately than GPS alone, according to the company.

In the meantime, Qdero knows it

Screenshot from QderoPateo's forthcoming iPhone app

needs to get something into the broader market — and to that end, an iPhone application called WorldLenns that demonstrates its computer vision is due next month (see screenshot).

Along with fees for device use, Qdero is building out a platform for proximity-based marketing, and to that end its 30-member team already includes salespeople.

Clearly, QderoPateo’s plan is too ambitious to work — augmented reality stands a much better chance of becoming mainstream by being incorporated by powerful device makers — but I don’t fault them for trying to give us a glimpse of the future a little sooner than that.

Related research from GigaOM Pro (subscription required): Report: Augmented Reality Today and Tomorrow

13 Responses to “Does Augmented Reality Need a Dedicated Device?”

  1. This is a step in the right direction. AR will eventually be huge, everyone has known that for years, the question is when. Within the past few years, all the problems have been solved but two: output device (but that is close, see, follow the links to their upcoming Wrap 920 AR); and input device, which is a much harder problem (although head mounted stereo cameras that see what the wearer sees, such as those on the Vuzix product, are part of the solution).

  2. The biggest barrier is still simply having to get your phone out and hold it up.
    We need a phone marker brave enough to do a decent HMD.

    “The phone uses triangulation between accelerometers, gyrometers and GPS to calculate its user’s location 10 times more accurately than GPS alone, according to the company.”

    Colour me highly skeptical.
    Gyrometers give you angle, and cant help with the position.
    And accelerometers can only really help with when your moving.
    For “point and look” style AR I dont think any will help much, but I’ll willing to be proved wrong.

    My moneys on image-based positioning being what wins in the long run. That is, working out the location from a pre-known images of the cityscape, possible a 3d mesh.

  3. Arj Subanandan

    The suggestion that augmented reality will succeed in the short term without a dedicated device is a fair point but without significant improvements in smartphone hardware the uptake of this new way of interacting will be severely impaired. Consumer acceptance of new technology is usually considerably slower than the geekosphere. They won’t put up with bug-ridden applications, quirky interfaces or
    performance problems. The devices at the moment are a hinderance. iPhone 3GS makes AE a lacklustre experience while the Nexus One is better its still lacking the performance needed for the advanced and ‘cool’ applications in development in the lab. Getting past these barriers is what the Ouidoo phone is all about. It brings everything needed to make
    AN something that consumers will want to use. The phone itself is as good as its competitors and better in some ways but its differentiated by its optimisation to Articulated Naturality and in a market full of homogenous products that’s a strong asset. It also looks pretty good.

  4. Very interesting company… I have a few “AR” apps on my Android (wikitude, layar, and google goggles), but they are all missing something. I find myself reading about these apps, downloading them, using them for 2 mins, and never using them again. I can see AR being a great solution for certain experiences like, walking through a museum or driving through a city you don’t know, but I can’t see regular people walking around pointing their phones at everything.

  5. Does Augmented Reality Need a Dedicated Device? I don’t think so. However does the world need a Dedicated Device for Augmented Reality? Definitely!

    Thanks very much for the article, Liz! It’s inspiring…

  6. To clarify the article, our technology is Articulated Naturality not Augmented Reality which is a part of our entire genetic makeup of Ambient Intelligence.

    We are best positioned with China Mobile considering they have over 700 million subscribers that are ready to feast on the experience the Ouidoo device will deliver.

    In terms of ” powerful device makers” I think that we need to look at the current market and I have yet to se a powerful device in the market, so how is it even possible for them to accomplish what they dont have a vision for?

    It takes a consortium, which is why we created the Institute of Augemented & Articulated Urban Planning bringing together the largest group of scientists in the field of computer vision…this is what it takes to create a “cultural shift” like text messaging and American Idol.