Nokia’s X-ray App: Super Powers in the Palm of your Hand

by Matt Klassen on March 15, 2010

Ever wondered how long it would be before the radiation emitted from your phone gave you super powers…instead of just brain cancer? Well, don’t call yourself Superman just yet, but reports indicate that Nokia is developing an X-ray, or augmented reality app for its Ovi App store that will allow users to see around corners and behind buildings with just the touch of a button.

By combining a variety of new technological innovations, such as Google Earth and Google Street View, the app, in theory, will be able to provide the user with a 3D model of what lies behind any particular solid structure. So if you find yourself in a dense urban environment and, for some reason that I can’t quite grasp yet, you want to know what’s behind a particular building, simply point your phone at the structure and it will quickly melt away, leaving you with a 3D rendering of what’s behind it.

But before we get carried away here, this technology (also known as Meltvision or Distortvision) is still several years away. The downside, for anyone looking to use this app for nefarious purposes, is that it doesn’t let you see what’s inside any particular building (or under anyone particular person’s clothing, if your thoughts had gone that direction), although I could certainly understand the commercial appeal for an app like that.

Dr. Christian Sandor, Director of the Magic Vision Lab at UniSA, who leads the team developing this new mobile software for Nokia, explains that this application is designed to begin to seamlessly interconnect our real life with our virtual life. While most technologies, like Google’s map programs, accurately represent the real world, there simply isn’t the same level of congruence that users will find with the new X-ray app.

“More and more applications use high-quality 3D models, such as Google Earth, or photos, such as Google Streetview, of the environment. But with these approaches the real and virtual worlds are disconnected,” he says. “Our new applications present the real and virtual worlds together. For example, with Meltvision, you can ‘melt’ away a building in front of you to see whether or not there is an ATM in the street behind it. This is much easier than a pop up arrow or text that would tell you which direction to travel in. You can see it for yourself, as if it were ahead of you.”

While this level of congruence between the real and virtual would certainly be an interesting leap forward in mobile tech, would I consider the ability to see through buildings much easier than simply looking at a map or GPS? I’m not sure. In actuality, it seems like a useless piece of tech that fulfills no current consumer need. But since when did that stop people from buying apps?

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