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Qualcomm plans to take augmented reality to the next level

by Scott Bicheno on 23 July 2010, 07:00

Tags: Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM)

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Reality check

You've probably seen one or two augmented reality apps previewed before. You know, the Tomorrows World kind of things where reality and the virtual world intermingle seamlessly, and everything is improved - or augmented - by having digital information superimposed on it.

While there are apps out there, we're still at the very early stages of developing this technology for consumers. Furthermore, current AR apps are mainly used to superimpose information on panoramas, like streets, using a combination of your GPS location and your compass bearing. This technique isn't so useful for bringing AR to objects that are close to you.

Mobile chip giant Qualcomm reckons there's a lot f potential in doing just that, so it has created a mobile AR platform and SDK to stimulate activity in this area. But Qualcomm's a chip company, right? What's it doing getting involved in this sort of thing? To find out we spoke to Jay Wright - business development director and AR head at Qualcomm.

"It's a software technology that we see driving demand for high-end chips," said Wright. "We regard it as a new UI paradigm.

"What we're doing is differentiating between what's already out there in terms of superimposing computer graphics over reality. In some of those that rely on bearing and GPS, accuracy isn't great. Something very important isn't happening - you can't align objects tightly. If you want to visualise instruction on top of a piece of equipment, you need visual processing."

So you need the power in your device to not only process the image in the camera and recognise it, but then to render graphics on top of it. Suddenly the interest for a mobile chip maker is apparent. "The image recognition algorithms are pretty tough, as is the processing," said Wright, urging us to have a look at the demonstration at Qualcomm's recent Uplinq developer conference, embedded below.