Friday, October 21, 2005

Virtual Sticky Notes

Leo Sauerman gets REALLY excited about semapedia, an application that allows to tag the real world with links to wikipedia articles. While I was still wondering: "why only wikipedia articles" I came across an article about Social Light - they allow you to tag the real world with anything you want and lets you see the tags/annotations of your friends.

While I do think that is a nice idea I don't understand the excitement. First, the idea is pretty old and secondly the infrastructure just isn't there yet.

The idea is prety old, because I saw a similar idea in some EU project years ago, the augmented reality people are talking about virtual billboards for sometime now and - whether you belive it out not - I though about starting my own startup with an idea very similar to sociallight four years ago (and I don't think I was the first to come up with this idea). I was serious enough to apply to Jamba (to work there for a while in order to learn how to program mobile phones) and to go to the CEBIT to talk to everybody on the T-Mobile stand (at this time they had just released their first location aware application for mobile phones - a Michelin restaurant guide) ...

The reason they are going to run into technical problems is still the same that back then stopped me from actually doing it (well, besides me beeing a coward): With current technology your talking of a best case accuracy of maybe 50m in the inner cities - outside of cities you measure the accuracy in kilometers. That's just not good enough to annotate your favorite shop or bar - don't even think about that doctors office in a multistory building. You could of course add a GPS to your phone, but this still hasn't happend on a big scale (its difficult because the power consumption of GPS receivers is pretty high) and GPS has its problems in cities and inside buildings. Sociallight only works on phones with GPS - but then, it only works with exactly one type of phones (Motorola i860)
BTW: I believe that these technical problems are also the reason why google hasn't started with location aware advertisements yet(they are thinking about that - read the eula for the GoogleMaps JavaScript API). These advertisements may one day pay your mobile phone bill!

I do think that one day we will have applications similar to sociallight and maybe now is the right time to start, but I'm sceptical that I will be seeing "StickyShadows" in Karlsruhe anytime soon. It may be a little different in America because there the mobile phone companies where under pressure to provide a decent localisation of calls made to the emergency services - I did not follow these developments after I dropped the idea of my own company.

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