The Nokia research team has demonstrated a prototype phone equipped with MARA software and the appropriate hardware: a global positioning system (GPS), an accelerometer, and a compass. The souped-up phone is able to identify restaurants, hotels, and landmarks and provide Web links and basic information about these objects on the phone’s screen. In addition, says David Murphy, an engineer at Nokia Research Center, in Helsinki, Finland, who works on the project, the system can also be used to find nearby friends who have phones with GPS and the appropriate software.
The field of augmented reality, in which supplementary information from a computer or the Internet is overlaid onto the real world, has been the topic of science fiction and serious academic and military study for years. Historically, augmented-reality systems have required small backpacks with computing and networking hardware that stream information onto a visual display. But in recent years, researchers have been experimenting with more consumer-friendly ways to augment reality.
Mobile phones, in particular, are an appealing gateway to the virtual world. Their computing capabilities have increased substantially, and a growing number are GPS-enabled and can access high-speed data networks.
The potential of such research to create devices that can support situation awareness, the understanding of a locale (important in Online Dispute Resolution) or just as a handy mobile phone based walking guide to a foreign city or region is fascinating.