App Review: Wikitude

On: October 9, 2011
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About Philip Breek
My name is Philip Breek, I am 23 years old, come from the Netherlands and am currently following the New Media MA program at the UvA. I got my BA in New Media at the UvA last year and am now continuing my research through the MA program. I wrote my BA thesis on digital music distribution and hope to continue on this topic, however I might expand or rethink my research to also look at the creative industries and the impact of digital media and culture in a broader sense. Alongside my studies I am a music producer & DJ primarily focused on Dubstep, Electro and Next Level.

   
With the introduction of AR (augmented reality) software and its implementation into mobile devices there has been a considerable rise in apps that use such geo-location and AR features. One of these apps is ‘Wikitude‘ developed by the Austrian company ‘Wikitude GmbH‘ formerly ‘Mobilizy GmbH’. The ‘Wikitude’ app functions in a manner similar to other AR applications however takes a different approach. What is interesting about ‘Wikitude’ is that it employs a location based method of offering the user information and allows users to reference ‘Wikipedia‘ content in the on-screen overlay. Generally AR applications provide users with a digital overlay of information over a view of reality on-screen. A user films a general point of interest or his/her environment using the camera on such a mobile device which in turn provides a digital layer of information regarding what the camera is pointed at. The Wikitude app makes use of algorithms that calculate the user’s position which forms the basis of information presented on the digital overlay. This information ranges from general points of interest such as restaurants, public buildings and ATM’s to diverse web content including user generated content from diverse platforms amongst which, Wikipedia, Youtube and Twitter. This content offers the user multiple ways of locating specific services or locales and allows for searching one’s environment through a mobile device with a direct connection to the web.

Wikitude allows for user generated content through the addition of personal places or points of interest by users themselves. If a user wants to add his or her business or a favorite restaurant for example which is not yet listed in Wikitude then the user may do so online (www.wikitude.me) by placing a pin on the map creating their personal point of interest which is then viewable on the Wikitude overlay.

The recently introduced ‘ARchitect‘ program gives users even greater control by offering an actual ‘developer kit’ with which users are able to contribute to wikitude to a much greater extent. The incorporation of ‘wikipedia’ content via an internet connection lends to the immense amount of information available on Wikitude and the incorporation of user generated content leads to an even bigger database of available information. Such an extensive database of information allows users to explore their environment with great detail and the interaction with the web allows users to share and contribute. With support for Android, iOS (iPhone), Bada as well as Blackberry, Wikitude has a broad range of devices that allow for the use of the application.

Wikitude also allows for the incorporation of contacts on one’s mobile device such as the Blackberry version that enables BBM (Blackberry Messenger) contacts to be incorporated into the Wikitude interface. In this manner users are able to locate friends and interact and share with them in a very direct way where locations or points of interest may easily be shared between contacts. The users that contribute points of interest to the Wikitude database form so-called ‘worlds’ which contain extensive information on locations such as shops and stores and allow this information to be forwarded between contacts. This information may also be browsed through within what are termed ‘local worlds’ which are essentially sources of information within a user’s direct vicinity.
It is notable that Wikitude was actually the first AR browser for mobile devices and has since witnessed great success. Voted, ‘Best Augmented Reality Browser’ in both 2009 and 2010 by the ‘Readers Choice Awards’ on ‘Augmented Planet‘, Wikitude reigns as one of the most promising AR browsers for mobile devices. Concerning the uploading of user generated content, this approach paired with the location-based approach employed by Wikitude should over time lead to an extremely diverse range of ‘worlds’ with large amounts of usable information. Furthermore, Wikitude has recently come out with their exclusive new ‘Wikitude Drive‘  which is a navigation system that operates using AR. This service however is only available on a really limited amount of devices and so has yet to gain popularity.
A strong point of Wikitude is that it is available for quite a broad range of brands of devices as mentioned above (BB, iOS, Bada, Android). One of the weak points of Wikitude however is that the app is only available on a relatively small range of models amongst those brands. Only the very recent models of those mobile phone developers support Wikitude so I expect that as the app becomes available to a broader range of models or the older models are replaced by the newer models over time, Wikitude will witness much greater success.
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