Burt Reynolds made a couple of good movies and several bad ones featuring fast cars, CB radios and a determined, but dim-witted, police pursuit. A 21st Century remake of Smokey and the Bandit or Cannonball Run would feature Escort Inc’s SmartCord-enabled radar detectors, which can pull in real time radar/lidar trap information from every similarly equipped car on the road and display it on a smartphone screen.
They call it “social networking for the road”. Sheriff Buford T. Justice might call it a nationwide scofflaw conspiracy.
The SmartCord connects one of four Escort radar detector models (plus one from a second manufacturer) to an iPhone or compatible Android device by way of an automobile power adaptor. Escort’s phone app takes radar and laser readings from the detector, adds GPS tags and transmits it via the Internet to Escort’s central server.
The raw data from the road is then assessed, false alarms are scrubbed out and it’s merged into a real time, color coded tactical map, which is then displayed on the phone’s screen. The icons and color codes tell every driver in the network what kind of speed traps have been spotted, and indicates whether or not it’s a fresh sighting.
Of course, it’s all meant to promote
excessive speed safe driving. The app can be configured to warn a driver when he edges over the speed limit. Why else would NASCAR wannabes law-abiding drivers buy such a thing?
Escort says that there are 2 to 3 million drivers with SmartCord-capable detectors on the road already. All they need to join the
conspiracy network is a SmartCord, iPhone or Droid and $40 a year. The cowboy hat and Sally Field are what it’s all about optional.
He didn’t invent it, but he might be the one who brings it to market. Paul Jacobs, CEO of Qualcomm, talked about a coming “digital sixth sense” at today’s CTIA keynote session. His father, Qualcomm co-founder Irwin Jacobs, mentioned that at his age he’d like his mobile device to help him recognize faces and remember names. Paul took the idea to the next level, putting it together with other augmented reality concepts.
It’s still a fuzzy notion. Generally though, augmented reality involves delivering instant information about the real world around you, more or less automatically. It could be a system for recognizing faces, telling you the person’s name and giving you some quick background info regarding, say, the last time you met. Or you could look at the street you’re on through your mobile phone’s camera, and have buildings visually tagged with information about the businesses inside. And the list goes on.
The information flow can go both ways. You could walk into a party, take a quick peep at your phone’s camera, and instantly know who’s there. At the same time you could broadcast your own tag, telling something about yourself to anyone checking you out with a mobile phone.
Augmented reality still has a long way to go before it makes the jump from lab to market. But companies are starting to edge in that direction. The CTIA show featured applications that link GPS data to information about a specific location, and displays the result on a map. Intermap Technologies demonstrated its Accuterra iPhone app that provides tourist maps and guides to national parks and other outdoor attractions. They’re taking a hard look at iPhone 3.1 platform, which was just released to developers and supports early stage augmented reality functionality.
Mobile phone cameras and screens are just the beginning. Utimately, it’ll involve dedicated sensors and wearable display devices (glasses, maybe contact lenses?) tied to cloud based data and processing power. The mobile phone will just be one element in the augmented reality ensemble of the near future.