Hot, Hot, Hot! A Twitter Augmented Reality App for iPhone

Written by Sarah Perez / July 8, 2009 8:45 AM

There’s a fascinating new Twitter app in development called TwittARound, an augmented reality Twitter viewer for the iPhone 3GS. With the app, you can see live tweets around your location and you can even see how far away they are. To accomplish this, TwittARound uses a combination of the iPhone’s compass and its accelerator-enabled GPS to determine the location of tweets and then layers those on top of a live video feed. The end result is a Twitter AU experience that looks incredible…at least in the YouTube video. Unfortunately, there’s a big problem with this amazing new creation: Apple won’t allow it in the App Store.

Even though jailbreakers can enable video on the iPhone 3G, TwittARound will only work on the 3GS. That’s because the app uses the 3GS’s new built-in digital compass to help determine location – a feature not available on older models. However, there’s no reason why a downward-compatible version of this app couldn’t be built in the future which relied only on the GPS unit.

According to a post on i.document, the technical details about TwittARound are as follows:

« The whole application was developed in Webkit (UIWebView/Safari Mobile). A native Cocoa wrapper delegates location, compass and accelerometer to Javascript in the UIWebView. The 3D scene is based on Safari Mobiles brilliant 3D CSS transforms. The AJAX part is done with jQuery. »

When using TwittARound, the avatars of nearby Twitter users float through the top of the screen where the live video feed is displayed. Tap on any of the avatars to see their Twitter feed which will show up at the bottom. It’s a simple but elegant way of interacting with an augmented reality.

Apple Doesn’t Permit AU Apps

Unfortunately, TwittARound and all other augmented reality apps in development, won’t ever make it to the iTunes App Store because they’re built using non-public APIs. Officially, Apple’s iPhone SDK does not offer access to any APIs for manipulating live video, forcing developers to use the available but unsupported ones instead. That’s a shame because as you can see, there are a lot of unique concepts out there for implementing Augmented Reality on the iPhone.

In fact, this is one important area of development where Google’s Android OS has the edge. Already, we’ve seen new AU Android apps like Layar come about – an app which could very well represent the future of augmented reality.

Even on the Nokia platform, AU is surging ahead. Earlier this year, for example, the creator of the « Heroes » TV show announced his upcoming AU app called « TEVA » which will use Nokia’s video recording features in a new ARG mobile game.

Sadly, unless something changes at Apple, the AU developer community will simply move on to other platforms, leaving iPhone users behind. However, there’s still hope. According to some hearsay out there, Apple is interested in enabling these types of apps. In other words, it could be a question of « when » and not « if. » We only hope that they do so sooner than later.

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