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PointCloud Browser Augments Reality For Metro Newspapers & The Whole Internet

Check out the video posted below the fold. Is this what 2012 is supposed to be like? Is this... the future we're living in?

The video shows a demo of Sweden's 13th Lab's PointCloud browser used with the Metro Newspapers, who are the first to bring 13th Lab's technology into practice. For users it's pretty straightforward. If you go to Metro.se in the PointCloud browser, you'll instantly be able to take advantage of your phone's camera and interact online with the actual newspaper using augmented reality.

"We believe that the physical news paper is a great way to browse news and globally we reach more than 17 millon readers who do so daily." Says Andreas Klarén, Online Director of Metro Newspapers. "Imagine connecting that experience and those articles to the digital world with videos, music, slide shows, Facebook comments etc. We see this technology of connecting the physical world to the Internet as a natural convergence that has been in the making for some time, but technologies such as QR codes have simply not allowed for a good user experience in doing so."

What blows me away is how smooth and frictionless it is for the user. One issue is getting users to the PointCloud browser app, but Metro will update their website so that anyone browsing on an iPhone will see a link to download PointCloud.

"In general, the first applications using this kind of cutting edge tech is usually a bit gimmicky, but we're trying to focus a bit more on utility applications." Says Co-founder and Software Engineer Petter Ivmark. "We want to act more as an interface between the physical world and the online world, not creating a whole new content type."

One thing you have to respect about 13th Lab is their long vision as well. Instead of making a cool Metro Newspapers app, they've set up their technology to be used everywhere. In short, they plan to give the web eyes.

The company tells me that others have attempted to make a so-called Reality Browser, but have ended up either centralizing the web around their propriety web service APIs and central servers. In contrast, 13th Lab's browser offers fast image and 3D recognition to a standard webkit browser, allowing a normal HTML/JavaScript web page understand and react to what's in front of it.

For web and iOS developers, the technology also offers a whole lot more than putting 2D images on top of a 2D newspaper. The company was the first in the world to bring in the NASA pioneered SLAM (Simultaneous Localization And Mapping) technology used in the Mars rovers to track 3D spaces and objects, to an iOS application, which was demoed with the Ball Invasion game last summer.

This technology is also integrated in the PointCloud browser, allowing non C++/Objective-C developers to develop applications with their technology using simply JavaScript and HTML. It's also released to developers as an iOS SDK.

"We want to get as much reach as possible for our tech." Says 13th Lab's Petter Ivmark. "We get this by having a free browser where we can reach web developers, and a free SDK where we reach iOS developers."

"We believe that the camera will soon replace the GPS as the device's most important sensor for understanding the world around you."

For developers looking to get started on with the technology, take a look at the source code of the Ball Invasion app on the PointCloud website and start coding your own JavaScript 3D application.

The PointCloud Browser is available to download here.

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