Dec 8 Metaio, one of the leaders in augmented
reality (AR) technology, on Thursday opened its platform to
chipset vendors and software developers for free, hoping to
boost its position in the emerging sector.
The closely held German firm said it had also reached the
first milestone in its collaboration with two major mobile
chipset vendors, making its AR platform work on chipsets of
Texas Instruments and ST-Ericsson .
AR, which overlays images of the real world with
computer-generated input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS
data, was made familiar by Hollywood movies such as Terminator
and The Matrix, and is becoming a new battleground for top
chipset vendors. It can be used in smartphones and tablets, PCs
and head-mounted devices.
"We believe AR will become a basic demand in mobile devices
in the future," Bjorn Ekelund, head of ecosystems and research,
at ST-Ericsson, said in the statement.
Metaio's move follows similar step from Qualcomm,
which opened its platform earlier this year for developers.
Intel is working with Total Immersion, Metaio's key
rival, to add AR features to its chipsets.
Metaio also has a partnership with chip designer ARM
to get the AR features deeper into the technology.
Moving AR features closer to the hardware will make them
faster to use and could boost adoption of the technology among
consumers as it would be in all devices, without the need for
"In our view, by 2014 all smartphones will have the
technological basis to use AR," Metaio's co-founder Thomas Alt
said in an interview.
Metaio hopes opening the platform to thousands of developers
will help find new uses for the technology.
In one of the most simple examples, AR browsers, a phone's
location is used to add information from the user's surroundings
to the screen. Dutch company Layar's AR browser has reached more
than 10 million downloads, mostly on Google's Android platform.
Despite the millions of downloads, Layar has not been able
to build a business model around the browser and has started to
shift its business towards the media sector, where AR has also
started to gain traction in advertisements.
Advertisers have started to use the technology to overlay
still adds with moving images, like filmstars popping up on your
phone screen with a scene from the latest movie when you point
to the magazine cover with your phone.
Metaio said it would give its toolkit, which it said was
worth around $20,000, and had been used to create more than 70
applications and total downloads of more than 10 million, while
it would continue to sell additional features to developers.