Augmented Reality Gaming: Nokia Ovi Maps Racing

At last weeks Augmented Planet meet-up in London one of my predictions was we will see an influx of augmented reality browsers up until Apple open up the camera API and the focus shifts to markers and doing interesting things with the camera feed. Until then everyone that has a directory service or a product that provides location data will want to get in on the augmented reality hype and add AR to their product. It’s not a bad thing, if I had a server full of restaurant reviews or other useful location aware titbit’s you could bet I’d be working on an iPhone app and trying to figure out how I make some money.

Yell.com a UK Yellow Pages company looks like becoming the next big brand to release an augmented reality browser. No doubt having data for probably every business in the UK Yells browser will provide us with rich local search, but from looking at the concept video it looks like it will go a step further than simply telling you a good place to eat. Listening to the voice in the video the user is able to find out about special offers offered by local restaurants. Perfect for those beer nights out that result in the inevitable curry.

Yell.com — augmented reality browser

The differences I see are, Layar’s business is providing an augmented reality browser and working with developers to build their own layers, so we see layers from everything from bell ringing locations to locations of tourist attractions.

Yell on the other hand are a yellow pages company with listings of thousands of businesses so they’ll have no interest in 3rd party layers and will focus on promoting their local search aspect, eg finding a local restaurant.

I think Yell will have more in common with the Yelp browser.

From the video it looks like they have done a reasonable job with the UI, but from my first browser head to head having good data is critical or the app is next to useless.

I checked out your Inaugment.com, nice site.

A couple of tips:

Generally, it’s a lot easier to have some distance between you and the subject to combat the GPS accuracy. If you are too close you may have to pan around to find the object. Secondly, it’s sometimes easier to find the object on the map view first, that way when you switch the camera view it’s selected and saves you searching around.

Augmented Reality Gaming: Nokia Ovi Maps Racing

Many of these are of the more traditional type: overlay some virtual enemies in the camera view, and wave your phone around and try to shoot them, see here. Occasionally a game like Parallel Kingdom comes along which is a little different to the norm – so to speak. Again the debate arises as to what the definition of augmented reality is in the context. Is the only ‘reality’ the live camera view, or is your location also a type of ‘reality’, which too may be augmented. I won’t delve too deep into this discussion here, however this article will probably help to muddy the waters a little further.

Recently Nokia launched Ovi Maps Racing For Nokia Symbian^1 handsets. This article does not serve to review the game itself, as there are many sites which do this already, however what I want to do here, is to discuss the augmented reality-ness (<-I want to coin this phrase if no one has already claimed ownership), of the game.

The idea behind the game is that you use your current location to create a track using Ovi Maps (Navteq), and then you can race around, trying to set the fastest lap times.

Access your location, create a track and put the pedal to the metal. Ovi Maps Racing gives racing game enthusiasts a totally unique gaming experience combining map navigation and racing. Why not race on your home street? In addition to creating your own tracks in European cities, you can also choose from pre-defined tracks and check global rankings. Ladies and gentlemen, download and start your engines!

Is this Augmented Reality?

So the argument arises: is this an augmented reality game? It has not been marketed by Nokia as such, and we’ve not made our minds up yet. Do you need to be able to use your current location using the GPS sensor? Is it not enough to just be able to pick a map from a library, or create a map from an Ovi Maps interface? (The application provides both of these options). Is the use of the GPS sensor just a shortcut that feigns ‘augmentation’? Many augmented reality application and games simply give the perception of augmented reality and whilst the technology bubble continues to inflate, maybe this will do for now?

In any case, we’d definitely be interested in hearing your thoughts on the matter.

Ovi Maps Racing is available for Nokia Symbian^1 (S60 5th edition), devices: N97, N97 mini, 5800 XpressMusic and can be downloaded for free for a limited time only from the Ovi Store.

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

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