Augmented reality has been slowly moving beyond the realm of science fiction into real life, but it just got a large boost from Nokia. The Finish cellphone maker has introduced a public version of an app dubbed "Point and Find" for its legion of cellphones, and it automatically recognizes real-world objects for you.
Point and Find works as you'd imagine: You point your cellphone's camera at something and the image is whisked off to a remote server where some pattern recognition goes on. When the object is identified, the application will then respond with pertinent information. This could be encyclopedic-style data, a web link, a piece of music or a video, or anything else you can imagine.
So far the app is just a public beta in the U.K. and U.S., and it's apparently limited to recognizing movie posters, which will cause it to bring up the movie's traileron the phone. But the app's real potential is shown in the other info it will deliver about the movie: Nokia's press release says you can also "read reviews, and find the closest cinema where it is playing."—you can even buy tickets. By tying augmented reality into a location-based service on a cellphone, Nokia's creating an incredibly powerful tool that integrates cellphone cameras, GPS systems and mobile net technology. Exactly what kind of applications that tool could create has yet to be fully explored, so Nokia's approaching "businesses, content providers and agencies" to develop "innovative customized experiences" for their customers. Nokia's approaching this as a money-maker, of course, because it's possible to use Point and Find as an extremely targeted advertising portal—something the movie poster example amply demonstrates.
As well as recognizing movie posters, the system can also read barcodes and has a "category-specific text-entry search" option, so it may soon be possible to pick up an item in a shop, read its code and perform tasks like compare its pricing with other stores, and then command your phone's GPS to navigate you there.
Point and Find's image recognition system remains remote because it's not possible to perform that sort of complex pattern recognition, comparing an image against a (potentially vast) database, on the limited tech inside current cellphones. But the sophistication of cellphones is improving, so Nokia's pointing the way to the future, and exploiting the business potential of augmented reality while it's still fresh tech. The system is so useful, however, that it'll likely end up on all our smartphones in the future and the database of digitally tagged images for recognition could even follow the Wikipedia model—essentially becoming a huge crowd-sourced database of extra information about many objects, people and places.
Read more about Augmented Reality.