Augmented Reality Round-Up

--Brightkite Launches AR Local Advertising Solution
--Layar AR Browser for iPhone Pulled from Apple App Store Due to Crashes
--Version 1.5 of metaio's junaio AR Platform Now Available in Apple App Store
--Japan's Tonchidot Launches "Sekai Camera" AR App Internationally
--Total Immersion Teams with McDonald's on AR Promotion for "Avatar"

A number of items of augmented reality news have come across [itvt]'s desk over the past few days. Here is a brief round-up:

  • "Social discovery network" provider, Brightkite, has launched a local advertising solution for its Layar browser-based AR service (available on both iPhone and Android). "Using the Brightkite service, users can look at the world around them through their phone's camera to see real-time digital information on top of real-world locations," the company says in its press materials. "As the camera is turned in different directions, the graphics change to accommodate the lens' movements and the user sees all their friends' Brightkite data revealed around them. New partnerships with retailers, bars, restaurants and other businesses will allow Brightkite users to not only see Brightkite data but also nearby stores and local offers exclusive to each location. This is the first time AR has been used for an advertising campaign in the US." According to Brightkite, electronics retailer Best Buy is running, through the end of the month, a campaign that takes advantage of its new advertising solution.
  • The Layar AR browser--arguably the product that sparked the current wave of interest in AR--has been pulled from the Apple App store due to crashes. "After a flood of complaints that the app crashes for many users, we've decided to remove the app from the store," Layar CTO, Dirk Groten, wrote in a blog post. "Sorry, sorry, sorry. We had issues already since the very first launch of the iPhone app. Unfortunately these issues were due to bad memory management decisions right from the start, something that we could not easily fix without completely re-engineering the app. There is some old code in there that is buggy and we don't know exactly where the bug is. Since the app worked fine for 80% of the users (and on all our testing devices), we decided to move on to v3 before we would rebuild the framework of our app. We've tested v3 thoroughly internally and did not have any issues with crashes when submitting to the App Store. In fact, we still cannot reproduce the crashes that many of our users are reporting right now." However, Groten continued, "the percentage of users with crashes has grown too much with the launch of v3 to justify keeping the app online...We've already started re-engineering the app, but this won't be finished in a matter of days, rather a matter of weeks."
  • metaio, a Munich-based augmented reality company which also maintains offices in San Francisco and Seoul, says that version 1.5 of its junaio AR platform is now available in the Apple App Store (note: junaio allows users to place virtual content--including 3D objects, Twitter messages and links to Web sites--in real-world locations, where it can subsequently be discovered by other users; it also lets users share their creations with friends, and allows users without iPhones to edit and share 3D augmented reality images via a companion online service). According to the company, the new version offers 1) enhanced live-view overlay using Google Local Search to display points of interest at a location, such as restaurants; 2) new social features, including the ability to rate and comment on AR content generated by other users, and the ability to publish one's own AR content to social networks such as Facebook and Twitter; and 3) an improved user interface and faster download speeds. More information is available here.
  • Tonchidot, a Japanese AR start-up that recently secured $4 million in Series A funding (see the article published on, December 9th), has launched its flagship Sekai Camera application, previously available only in Japan, internationally. Sekai Camera is a social AR service that allows users to browse and share user-generated text, photos, voice and other location-based information. More information on the application's features is available here.
  • Pioneering AR company, Total Immersion, has partnered with McDonald's on an international promotion for the new James Cameron movie, "Avatar." The promotion will be implemented in McDonald's restaurants in 40 markets around the world, the company says. It describes the US implementation of the promotion as follows: "During the month and into January, product packaging in the US for Big Macs will feature an AR 'Thrill Card' on the side of each box, delivering an up-close experience with the rich environments of Pandora, and revealing insights into the characters, fauna and flora from the movie. Displayed before a Webcam, the perforated 'Thrill Card' becomes a portal into three unique, immersive Pandora environments--the Pandoran Rainforest, the Hallelujah Mountains and the Tree of Souls. Players control their AR experiences by moving and tilting the 'Thrill Cards' through the world of Pandora. They are invited to 'Touch the Mysterious Anemonids' where they watch the Pandoran Rainforest light up as they touch the bioluminescent Anemonids. Players are then beckoned to 'Navigate Across Ancient Vine Bridges,' where they can show their balancing skills by crossing the shaky vines to reach the Hallelujah Mountains. In the third scenario, 'Find Mystical Woodsprites,' players explore the willow tree in search of the mystical Woodsprites, and watch them come to life." A demo video of the Total Immersion-McDonald's "Avatar" AR experience is embedded below.