Augmented reality browser released for iPhone

Georgia Tech has released what it says is the world’s first augmented reality browser based on open web standards for the iPhone, with plans for an Android version soon.

Argon takes video from the phone’s camera and renders graphical content on top so that, for example, a customer in a bookstore could scan a book with their iPhone camera and immediately see information floating in the air, provided by the store’s information channel.

“Our goal is to provide a foundation for millions of web developers to begin writing applications so they can provide users with new experiences that are unique to the world of AR,” says Blair MacIntyre, KHARMA project director.

Until now, most AR applications had to be developed and deployed on the mobile device, with previous attempts at creating more general AR browser platforms offering limited content and interaction.

But, says the team, with this initial release, any content that can be displayed in the iPhone’s Mobile Safari Web browser can be pushed out into the world on virtual billboards. Other content can be created using forms and Javascript. Future releases will also include support for a range of 3D content.

“Basically, there are lots of little programs that provide the ability to use AR to put some information out in the world around you,” says MacIntyre.

“Some, like these early browsers, also allow users to contribute content, but none allow the full range of dynamic content, control and interactivity of the web, with everything hosted on your own servers.”

Rather than just displaying the locations of businesses or other nearby places, says MacIntyre, users can customize the content delivery as they wish. When using the browser to view the channel for a theater, for example, the channel could display movie times, show previews or create relevant in-browser games.

“If you look at the history of any media, such as film or the web, initially the content creators are the same people who created the technology. But at some point that begins to change, and tools come along that allow many people to begin to work with the technology,” says MacIntyre.

“With the KHARMA specifications, and the Argon browser, we want to put AR into the hands of the millions of people who know how to create websites, and hopefully take a step toward understanding the potential of AR.”

Argon’s available now, free, from the App Store.