IBM's augmented reality browser

IBM's augmented reality browser

Augmented reality browsers seem to be the in-thing at the moment, and we can see why. If done well, they have the potential to be down right awesome. The issue with these applications, however, is that they rely heavily on plotted content. This week, news of two augmented reality browsers has hit the headlines. The first we heard about was by a Dutch company naming their product “Layar” and the second was by IBM for Wimbledon, called ‘Seer’. But first, what are they?

The applications runs on your Android phone and makes use of your camera, GPS, compass and pretty much anything else it can get its hands on. When in use, it turns the camera on and displays to you what it would be recording as a video on your screen. However, the application then adds to it points of interest and information that may not be directly visible to you because it is behind a build or two in the distance. As you pan your device around, new points of interest may appear, including distance and other relevant information such as images. The result is something rather surreal, but cool; you see the world as it should be on the display via your camera, but overlaid onto it is information on what you are looking at, accessible in a touch friendly way. Think 3D Google Earth combined with a camera that can see through walls while searching for ATMs, hotels and .. well.. anything.

You might be thinking that this is just a gadget-gizmo that can’t possibly be useful. Well, think again as the world’s largest and most successful software company also thinks they’re pretty useful too, and have written one for the upcoming Grand Slam Tennis tournament at Wimbledon, London. IBM’s augmented reality browser relies on all the toilets, drinking fountains and tennis courts being plotted into the database where the application draws its information.

This ultimately allows the application to read your environment and provide live data feeds telling you what is happening there at any given moment. This is a great idea for events where the boundaries of your environment are finite and controlled. Plotting everything throughout the world is somewhat more arduous, but with community support, these types of ‘augmented reality browsers’ could be exceptionally useful.

James Tromans
Contributing editor of, based in the U.K.