Posts Tagged ‘Android’

toozlaI’ve had only the briefest of acquaintances with Toozla, a Russian-based augmented reality outfit that is using location-triggered audio to pep up experiences for tourists, but I like the idea enough to flag it up here.

Unlike most AR apps that overlay text on a camera view, Toozla uses voiced information that is tethered to proximity to places of interest.

There are Wikipedia text entries in the mix too, along with weather from Wunderground and UGC voice notes that can be anchored to a place so others can hear about individual impressions and experiences.

Audio has many advantages over text in this kind of context, both in the amount of information it can convey and because it lets people concentrate on their surroundings rather than looking at a screen, though there’s also an overhead in file download size and the ability to skim content for relevance.

For commercial companies seeking to profit from the tourist trade there are opportunities to incorporate sales and promotion activity linked to location.

There are also sponsorships like that of the Wellcome Foundation’s for a Medical London tour, written and presented by historian Richard Barnett, last year for City Stories Walks

As Broadcastr, another player in this area, states:  “It’s like a museum tour of the entire world.”

The Beta-service, which has just followed up its iPhone release with an Android app, lets users record their own content, create playlists, follow their friends, and share on Facebook.

As ever, extracting value from the mix is the hard part; hearing voices is one thing, but a cacophony isn’t helpful. The winner here will be the service that makes best use of listener time while adding real value to the experience of place.

The BBC has a seam of authoritative, expertly produced, historical audio recordings but rights issues, commercial impact considerations and the enormity of digitizing, filtering, voicing and repackaging the material is likely to stymie progress any time soon and that’s a huge shame.

In a country like the UK, with such an extraordinary history, bringing the past to life is enriching for visitors and likely to be good business too.


The eccentric one-man-band that is Joseph Tame is taking outside broadcasting to a new level with his bizarre rig for the upcoming Tokyo Marathon.

As he runs the 26-mile course he’ll be live broadcasting on two cameras – one facing forward, one facing him – while at the same time transmitting live location, pace and heart-rate data via Runkeeper, as well as sampling pollution, humidity and noise levels.

His kit features an iPad strapped to his chest on which Twitter messages will be displayed, four iPhones and an Android device, plus three mobile wifi routers. A volunteer team of 15 will broadcast live from points along the route and all the material will be fed back to a studio for mixing and rebroadcasting via Ustream.

Joseph has a good track record in technological firsts having previously live-streamed himself climbing Mt Fuji.

You can listen to a primer on his marathon plans at 0300 Tues on Radio 5live or catch-up via the less chronologically challenging Outriders Podcast where he’s in conversation with my colleague Jamillah Knowles.


Imagine being able to enter your locked office by using a smartphone, or never having to queue to renew an Oystercard – or even having an Oystercard.

Imagine the billing being done through the device, and the payment being taken care of through the handset too. No need to fiddle with change, or feed meters, or carry cards, or cash.

We’ve moved a step nearer that world with the release of the flagship Android phone from Google, the Nexus S, which I laid hands on earlier this week.

While its credentials as an iPhone challenger are impressive it’s the inclusion of Near Field Communications technology that is especially interesting.

NFC opens the door to mobile ticketing, mobile payment, even mobile ID and the Nexus S is the first Android handset to support the technology.

It also opens the door to some significant security issues which have been exercising cryptographers and, until now, have delayed its introduction.

Having NFC in the device isn’t much use on its own and it’s anyone’s guess as to Google’s ultimate intentions, but it does show direction of travel for the technology.

One suggestion is that it ties in with Google’s roll-out of Hotpot – a local recommendation engine that works with Google Places. Window stickers in the Hotpot business kits come with built-in NFC for potential rating and recommendation feedback.

That on its own isn’t enough to justify its incorporation and it’s why the rumour mill is rife that it heralds a move by Google into “pay-by-wave” mobile commerce.

If true, it begs the question: How will competitors respond

Well, Nokia has said NFC will be built into all its high-end smartphones from this year. RIM is considering it for Blackberry, Orange is introducing it to Europe and three US operators have already banded together under the brand name of Isis.

Speed of adoption will depend partly on assurances about security and privacy but also on how NFC is carved up. Telcos and handset manufacturers are keen for a piece of the action and that could play into Apple’s hands with its walled garden approach.

This has a wider resonance for companies even if NFC transactions aren’t on their immediate horizon. It  matters because it’s an important milestone in the evolution of mobile – one that will cement its position as the primary technology – and as part of a wider revolution in the way we receive and act on information.

Google is already a “mobile first” company. It sees the future of computing as mobile. And for CEO Eric Schmidt it means putting his best people on mobile.

Google is already exploring the complexities of location and context in delivering filtered information. The goal is relevance.

It’s why, before you’ve finished entering a search term, Google will have anticipated what you might want.

Start typing the word museum and you’ll get a different outcome depending on where you are.

In news organisations we need to think a lot harder about relevance and move away from treating everyone as if their needs are identical. They’re not. And we need to start thinking about increasing the effort and commitment that goes into mobile services.


Can a barcode tell a story? It can if it’s powered by Stickybits to add digital information to real-world objects.

Earlier this week I received a postcard from colleague Jim Haryott containing nothing in the message area other than a barcode.

Using a reader – available for Android and iPhones – I was able to read a message and see a piece of video which had been attached.

Interacting with information in the landscape is at an early stage and the Internet of Things is still a long way off but Stickybits shows a glimmer of what’s coming.

For now it’s a bridge between analogue and digital.  In future, interaction with objects via a mobile device will become an everyday feature.

looxcieMobile video is constantly improving but all too often the best, unexpected moments are missed because the device isn’t ready or it’s in your pocket.

“Everybody gets the splash, but nobody gets the whale,” is how Looxcie’s marketing chief Bob Kron puts it.

His company makes a wearable Bluetooth camcorder which fits over the ear and continuously records video.

It stores up to five hours of material on a 4GB flash memory and the last 30-seconds of viewing are continuously buffered to be saved by a one-click, instant clip button.

To set-up, you use your smartphone (Android only for now) as a viewing screen to make sure the camera is level and pointing where you look.

Once up and running a red “video on” light illuminates.

The 30-second clips you save can be instantly shared – bandwith permitting – to pre-selected recipients or to Facebook, YouTube or Twitter.

On the face of it,  this new hardware looks like a useful addition to the journalists’  toolkit.

At $199 it’s a cheap route to video capture, and simple to use. It doesn’t involve fiddling with lots of buttons and controls so you can concentrate on what’s going on around you – and that’s important if you’re in potentially hostile environments.

It’s also less obvious than a handheld camera so less likely to trigger adverse reactions in a crowd, though there’s always the risk that someone will think you’re filming them for clandestine purposes.

And as mobile pictures from the G20 protests have shown, the increasingly levels of scrutiny mean that you can never be sure that someone, somewhere, isn’t watching – and recording – you.