When most people think of mobile app development, the first apps that come to mind are usually productivity apps such as Mail, Calendar, and Weather, games such as Angry Birds, Words With Friends, and Doodle Jump, or social apps like Facebook, Twitter, and Gowalla. All of these apps are constructed to slip into the cracks of our busy lifestyles, aiding us in some form or fashion. Catching up on emails while in line at Starbucks. Entertainment while waiting for a friend to arrive. Checking in to a restaurant while walking through the door. Although mobile apps like these are becoming more and more integrated into our everyday lives, there is still an entire sea of uncharted waters left to explore. As technological innovations such as location based services, augmented reality, the accelerometer, etc. open new doors daily, apps are slowly starting to reach out and take advantage of all these new features and create truly unique experiences.
Ideas that many people think are futuristic actually already exist today. Seek ’n Spell(Free) for the iPhone is a multiplayer game that combines running with Scrabble. Players run around in real life snatching up virtual letters so they can create words and obtain points. To do this, the device tracks the player’s location using GPS coordinates. On the screen, the player sees a satellite view of the area with a virtual overlay indicating where all the letters are hiding. Players must run to the location indicated on the device where the virtual letter is then “collected”. Upon collecting enough letters, the user arranges letters strategically to create high scoring words: a great way of using technology to create a game that is both physically and mentally challenging.
Two other apps that use augmented reality are ARDefender ($0.99), in which users are trying to protect a virtual tower from enemies in a real life environment, and the one I really want to talk about, Free Flight(Free). Using the phone as a remote control, users can control a real life quadrocopter, known as the AR.Drone($299.95) complete with front and bottom facing cameras capable of streaming live video images to your device’s screen. This enables users to fly the AR.Drone around corners and through houses all without even having to be within view. While most video games are fun because of their simulation of real life, the AR.Drone takes this to the next level, combining real life objects with virtual gameplay. Players can use the drones to battle head-to-head, shooting virtual missiles at each other while evading enemy missiles, an augmented reality dogfight.
A similar concept, the Aeryon Scout, is a flying robot that can fly to any location on Google Maps with the tap of a finger. Using its geo-targeting system, the scout’s 10x optical zoom camera locks on to the location while self-stabilizing. Used as an unmanned CCTV surveillance camera, this bad boy can safely gather professional intelligence in minutes.
This level of innovation mixed with other existing technologies could lead to more unbelievable innovations. Currently, Facebook has facial recognition software that automatically tags people that it identifies in uploaded pictures. Emotiv Systems’ neuroheadset(only $299) can read a user’s brainwaves, letting users control and manipulate virtual objects as well as physical objects with thoughts. Imagine for one moment if we combined some of the existing technologies mentioned above. With the purchase of a simple app, a smartphone owner could tell a self-stabilizing flying robot to patrol a certain circumference around themselves and using facial-recognition software, the bot could detect and report friends, unknown people, and/or objects in the vicinity to the owner. Bots could transmit information to one another based on the owner’s predefined privacy settings, link to social networks, or be used in complex location based games. The possibilities are endless.
What direction do you think apps are heading? What will be possible in 5 years, or even just 1 year from now?