nru, another step towards magical augmented reality phones

“nru” is an application from UK developers lastminute.com, designed like so many other recent mobile apps to location food, shopping, and entertainment deals around you. What makes nru (pronounced “near you”) compelling is in part its platform, running as it does exclusively on the T-Mobile G1 powered by Google’s Android mobile OS.

Because the G1 has a compass inside, nru presents its data as a sonar-like spinning map when held parallel to the ground, but presents a snazzy augmented reality overlay when tipped up towards the horizon. It’s easier to grok when you can see it in motion; there’s a video up above.

You can give it a literal whirl today if you’re an Android user in the U.K., where it’s available on the marketplace.

The merit of nru itself aside, it’s clear that the addition of a compass to the G1 is its superlative feature. It’s this year’s accelerometer. I’d expect to see one in the next iPhone revision. By next year they’ll be in digital picture frames and blenders, a nickel’s worth of “Why not?” silicon telemetry.

From the examples of the augmented reality software like nru and Google’s own Maps program, however, it’s clear that we’re a little ways away from the portable rendering power necessary to make these truly feel magical. The iPhone and G1’s camera has horrendous refresh rates, akin to primitive digital cameras. Before we’ll get truly amazing “looking glass” applications, our handsets will need either faster cameras or more optimized visual processing. We’re really close, though. Can’t be more than a couple of years out.

nru.jpg
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7 Responses to nru, another step towards magical augmented reality phones

  1. Anonymous says:

    There is already an Android app that does what you are describing called Wikitude. Press the “menu” and then “cam mode” and it will give you informative pinpoints and label overlays through the camera. Augmented reality. It’s way more impressive than this app.

  2. bitman362 says:

    This is great!
    I can so see people with their G1s in front of their faces blithely following it into an oncoming bus.
    Won’t be long now before using a cell phone while walking is banned.

  3. Agies says:

    Wonder if it can tell you when the xenomorphs are coming to kill you.

  4. artificer says:

    This reminds me of the UI from The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion? Am I the only one?

  5. Anonymous says:

    Marker based AR works well enough on the existing phones. Nokia N95 here:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zyWVH6jkDHg
    Mrakereless AR may work on them too soon – here is 2d feature tracking example, but complete 3d outdoor tracking for existing mobiles could be near already.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O8XH6ORpBls

  6. Garr says:

    I think visual processing is not the only problem; I imagine this App is a real battery drainer.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I’d rather just look at a map. As cool as the concept is, it seems like just a gimmick.

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