As I have been in Spain for the last two weeks, I missed the presentation of one of the most anticipated iPhone applications. I am talking about the Sekai Camera, an augmented reality application developed in Tokyo which allows users to read and add information to objects, locations, buildings or any other thing in the real world using the iPhone as the interface. My friend Nobi was able to attend the presentation and was one of the first people to use the Sekai Camera. This is a demonstration video he recorded in the Loewe store in Omotesando; notice that the application uses the camera to recognize the purses in the shelves in real time so the user can easily obtain information about each item:
It can seem trivial but to be able to create an application like this, a lot of information from many sources (GPS, sensors, Internet) is needed. The good thing is that in Japan there is ALREADY a lot of geotagged information on the net thanks to mobile phones being able to geotag pictures or information since 2003/2004. Having so much geotagged information available via public APIs allows the Sekai Camera to be a relatively useful application from day 1. For example, one of the first applications of the Sekai Camera that is very useful is to aim the camera to a restaurant in the street so you can obtain real time information and reviews about what other clients that passed by think about it.
Right now Japan is the perfect breeding ground for an augmented reality application. Microsoft, Google and many others are also putting a lot of money into the development of augmented reality applications. We will see if the Sekai Camera is able to start the trend in Japan and from there get ready to conquer the world before the big companies take over the market.