I got all excited about Twitter’s geotagging feature before, and now it’s getting a new spin that wraps in another neat technology: Augmented reality. Enter Twitter 360, an AR iPhone App that puts Tweets in a global navigational context.
It’s a product from Presselite, the company that snuck the very first AR iPhone app into the App Store under Apple’s nose before the system had been officially enabled. It has a slightly familiar look and feel to those of you who’ve used the company’s Metro map apps. Essentially it superimposes Tweets from your Twitter feed onto a view of the world through your iPhone 3G S’s camera–each Tweep responsible for the Tweets gets a digital tag in the AR view that corresponds to their approximate location (if they’ve just used a generic location in their Twitter settings) or a precise location if they’ve switched on the new geotagging feature.
One neat thing, as far as I’m concerned, is that Twitter 360 lets you set the upper limit to the range the app covers as being the “World.” As you can see from this pic, that’s quite handy for tracking Fast Company tweets–and for working out precisely how far I am from New York. It’s warmer where I am, so I don’t mind those 5,000-odd kms.
Presselite is careful to note that this is “one of the first” iPhone apps to use the new geotagging facility within Twitter, and that’s with good reason: Layar, the AR browser, has had several Tweep location apps like Tweetmondo and Tweetaround working as AR layers inside it for quite a while, and they’re pretty sophisticated. But Twitter 360 is clever all by itself–even offering the capability to locate your friends (once you’ve added them to its database) and if you enable it, it’ll auto-update your official location field on Twitter with your most recent coordinates when you turn the app on. Antoine Morcos, the company’s co-founder is careful to note that “Twitter 360 does not intend to be” a full Twitter client app, and instead the company’s goal is “to provide a different approach to the Twitter experience.” It certainly opens up interesting new possibilities, like using Tweets to coordinate a rendezvous with a friend in a new city, and it’s likely to get more applications over time as Presselite is “already working on new ideas to be added.”
The other thing to think about Twitter 360 is “oh damn,” at least if you’re nervous about the idea of broadcasting/lifecasting your location to the World. The app is clearly the thin end of the wedge which will end up with everything and everyone potentially knowing your location at any instant (though it’s strictly opt-in for now.) Next stop: Personalized AR location-aware advertising, à la the film Minority Report. I’m just saying.