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iPad to Get Camera?

Posted by Bob Warfield on September 1, 2010

Wow.  An iPad with a camera would make a sweet augmented reality device.  Hold that bad boy up and pan it around so you can really see the AR display on a big screen.

Apparently Jobs slipped today and may have inadvertently preannounced this feature.

Lately, I’ve been looking at various jobs and asking myself, “How would this job be made dramatically better if it had an iPod and the right software?” 

The idea is a job where you’re not sitting at a desk in front of a computer all day.  For example, I recently visited a specialist Dr’s office for some routine tests and everyone had a tablet (not iPads though) instead of a clipboard.  All my medical records were online with the tablets, and all the poking and prodding resulted in data going into a tablet.  It was very cool.  This was a proprietary system the docs could afford, but an iPad based system accessing WiFi and servers in the SaaS Cloud or on site could do a lot for less money.

Augmented Reality would significantly extend the possibilities.  Some sort of API for sensors that works over WiFi would add even more possibilities.

Consider a warehouse guy.  He has an iPad with Augmented Reality and built-in camera.  They want him to go get something, so he holds it up and pans it around until the AR display on the screen tells him where to head.  Eventually it guides him to the exact spot in the warehouse.  Same device can be used to do spot inventory checks.  Got a shrinkage problem?  Correlate the spot inventory checks with who is on the schedule to see if there is an employee theft problem.

Or, picture an auto mechanic.  He plugs his OBD (on-board diagnostics) computer into the car and picks up the iPad.  As he pans it over the car various hot spots light up telling him what the OBD is detecting in terms of trouble spots.  He has it integrated with the ticket where the customer reported what they were experiencing with the car as well.  He can make notations on an actual photo of the car that tell what he did and why to fix it.  When you come to pick up the car, he walks you through the whole thing using the iPad to illustrate via AR scanning your car what went on and why.  When you’ve signed off, touch a button on the screen and your invoice will be printed or mailed to you.

Give one to a surveyor.  It’s got a super high-res camera clipped on that is sensitive both to visible light and infrared laser.  Set up your laser transits, connect it via Internet to cartographical databases, bring on the GPS, and let our surveyor interact with the environment using augmented reality.  The lasers provide baselines so the AR can use the beams coupled with the hi-res and GPS to precisely correlate whatever its looking at.  Once the device is dialed in to what it is seeing, the surveyor can precisely locate whatever landmarks they’re looking for, right up to the point of seeing a virtual “X” marking where to place the stakes and markers.  These updates go into a DB, and when the construction crew shows up, their iPads are already dialed in to all this as well.  Meanwhile, the planning commission and neighbors can look at the architect’s rendering superimposed over the photos AR-style in order to get a sense of how the structure will fit in with the environment.

If you’re wondering what these apps would be like, get your iPad, and grab an app called “Star3map“.  There’s no camera, but it’s still very cool.  You can hold up your iPad and point in any direction and see what stars and planets would be visible there.  Works day or night, and even pointing through the floor at some other part of the earth.

Love the AR stuff!

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