This morning, I awoke to an MGM press release announcing their new iPhone app, featuring augmented reality. Of course, anything iPhone and Vegas related immediately gets me interested so I dug in.
For those unfamiliar, augmented reality (AR) is a technique by which a user sees a live video stream with computer graphics overlaid, based on their location. So for instance, you hold up your phone and on the screen you see what the camera lens sees but with information painted on top, typically points of interest, etc...
This app, Vegas Reality, is in the App Store now and I took it for a little spin. This will probably sound like sour grapes to some but honestly, I wasn't all that impressed. The app has several downsides in my mind. First, it only includes MGM Mirage stuff. Understandable I guess but that means that over half The Strip has no annotations at all.
Once you drill down on a resort, there's a little bit of high-level information, less than you'd find on a typical resort Web site. The augmented reality bit only shows you the names of the resorts around you, basically the same info you'd get from reading the marquee.
The app does integrate Twitter, a feature that's also in the forthcoming 2.6 version of Vegas Mate for the iPhone.
All that said, the app is free (search for 'mgm mirage' in the App Store) so there's no risk if you want to try it for yourself. If you're not in Vegas, it simulates your location as being at the corner of Tropicana and LVB. The app requires an iPhone 3GS or greater and does not work on the iPod touch at all.
One important question - AR requires the use of the video camera but that technology was recently banned at Luxor and Excalibur. Is this app not welcome there either?
I actually built about half of an AR feature for Vegas Mate 2.5 but I dropped it for an important reason - augmented reality isn't very useful in most real-world situations! Walking around with a phone in front of you isn't very desirable and due to the limitations of GPS technology, it doesn't work well inside, a place where something like this could be awesome if done right. Maybe someday, if we can get this kind of thing embedded into sunglasses...
I can imagine the pitch meeting for this app - AR looks fantastic in a demo but most users try it once and then put it back down. The AR revolution never took off. Trust me, we won't see people walking down The Strip, phones held aloft looking for these annotations anytime soon.
I expect more and more apps for all platforms from the resort companies. So far though, they're treating them more like they would Web sites. If they want to really knock people's socks off, they need to understand this is a new medium and adjust strategy accordingly.
This shows that sort of thinking but with a technology itself (AR) that's a bit half-baked.