acrossair for iPhone 3GS – my first impressions

acrossair has just launched their iPhone 3GS apps

acrossair has just launched their iPhone 3GS apps

The AR field is really hotting up now.  acrossair has launched a suite of new apps for the iPhone 3GS (only) that display tags for searched items on the video display of the real world.

Fancy a coffee and would like to know where the nearest coffee house is? Look no further than ‘Nearest Places’. Whether it’s to find out where the nearest hotel, supermarket or museums are, this will guide you to where you would like to be.

I’ve been using the Nearest Places app today and it is a nice example of simple video overlay AR.  Here are my impressions.

First the bad stuff:

– I had a couple of crashes when first using it (but none since).

– More distant targets don’t display unless you scroll the screen down or tilt the handset further and further over (you find yourself looking up at the phone over your head).

– The content is patchy (at least it is in NZ). Many of the targets that I can easily find on Geovector World Surfer are not displayed on Nearest Places.  Also, I found many double-ups (I’m guessing they’ve sourced content from a couple of providers).

– You can’t search in horizontal (map view) mode.

– The tags are too big (contain too much info) and cause too much stacking of the search results. I think the display will get very cluttered as more geo-located content becomes available.

It seems to me acrossair have rushed this app to market in order to be one of the first AR apps on the iPhone. However, this is otherwise a good example of an early AR app and all the issues above are easily resolved in updates and future releases.  It has some great features:

– Free text searching (something that is lacking in GeoVector’s app).

– Colour coded categories are displayed in the viewer as you tilt the screen up from map mode.  Nice and intuitive. You can swipe to scroll through the categories and the appear to rotate around you.

– The entire screen is used for displaying the results.  No tool bars or buttons are used.

– The display can be used in both landscape and portrait mode with seamless transition.

– Tags show target name, distance, address, phone number and star rating. Click on the tag to see more info and get directions.

– It’s fast.  The tags move smoothly as you pan, and search results come up quickly.

It’s curious that acrossair has chosen to release multiple apps rather than one “killer” app that incorporates all of them.  Certainly their Nearest Wiki app could simply be a category in Nearest Places.

Overall, I think acrossair is a true contender in AR, but they will need to continue to develop their usability and content to ensure users like me keep using their apps.  It is one thing to download an app and be excited by it’s novelty… quite another to find it so useful that you keep using it regularly.

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