Augmented Reality App Shows Rome’s Colosseum, In All Of Its Glory

Augmented Reality apps on our smartphones and tablets can do some pretty amazing things. The basic premise is that these apps use our device’s camera to show us the world around us while also overlaying information that may be of interest. For example, AR apps can give directions, complete with on-screen arrows showing us where to go, or they can display info about hotels, restaurants and bars that include Yelp scores, hours of operation, menus and more. The potential for augmented reality is so great that Google is even incorporating it directly into their Glass project.

But a company called AR-media is truly taking augmented reality to the next level with a new app in development that will let travelers see some of their favorite historical sites restored to how they looked when they were first built. In the case of the demo video below, that means using an iPad to catch a glimpse of the Roman Colosseum as it looked when it was newly constructed.

The software uses special programming to determine where you are in relation to the structure and uses 3D modeling to fill in sections of the building. The results are pretty amazing and show the possibilities of how AR can be used to educate and entertain, particularly in the travel industry.

Now, I wouldn’t recommend staring at some of our more magnificent monuments through the screen of any device. After all, you’re there to see it in person. But if a smartphone or tablet can enhance the experience, then I think that is technology that is working to make our lives better. In this case, the AR app practically allows us to step back in time and see the Colosseum in all of its glory.

TourWrist Brings New Views Of Old Places

TourWrist has one of the world’s largest collections of geo-located virtual tours, acquired from consumers and panoramic photographers. Different than two-dimensional photos and static-shot video, TourWrist real world panoramic images can greatly enhance travel-planning efforts by offering a different, more detailed view of places we might visit.

A free service, TourWrist delivers a 360-degree view of places we might travel with over 30,000 panoramic images. Using the TourWrist smartphone app to view, shoot, publish and share panoramas is easy too. TourWrist comes loaded with panoramic photography tools, back-end infrastructure and tour viewers.

“If you’ve ever played with Google Earth, you zoom in and get this sensation of being able to go anywhere – but eventually you stop going back because it doesn’t let you do anything,” explained on CoDesign. Tour Wrist CEO Charles Armstrong. “Our goal is to give you the opportunity to actually explore these places.”

Visiting the TourWrist website, we can choose to see the best/everything in categories such as hotels and resorts; arts and entertainment; dining and more. A panorama of a luxury yacht caught our attention and provides a good example of just what TourWrist is capable of. Clicking our way around the yacht took us from one panorama to another, giving about as complete of a tour as possible without really being there.

In that yacht tour, we were able to view in different directions and move forward and backward into the scene, much like Google Street View, something we would not have been able to do not long ago. “Our interface is always in a constant state of improvement,” says Armstrong.

[Photos Credit: Flickr user drocpso]

Word Lens: the iPhone app that will change travel

There aren’t many apps that come along and significantly alter the way we live or travel, but this is one of them. The future is here.

Word Lens, released yesterday by QuestVisual, is an iPhone application that analyzes text in either Spanish or English and produces live translations in real time on your iPhone’s screen. Just point your iPhone’s camera at a sign, menu, or document and the application will display the translated text on top of the given object; arguably the most useful iteration of augmented reality to date.

Founders Otavio Good and John DeWeese have been hard at work for 2 1/2 years to make this a reality, and promise to expand with more languages soon. The app is available for free in the iTunes store, but the Spanish to English and English to Spanish dictionaries each cost $4.99.

At the moment, the application only processes text word-for-word, so there is no grammatical evaluation. But this is still useful for deciphering road signs, menus, and the multitude of printed text that one encounters when traveling in a foreign country.

DeWeese commented that they are also looking into non-latin character sets such as chinese, which is (understandably) “a few orders of magnitude more complex”.

So if you have an iPhone, head on over to the app store and download it for free to try out the demo and believe the magic yourself. If not, check out the video below.

Ask Gadling: What do you do when your guidebook is wrong?

Ever bought a guidebook and discovered when you arrived it was useless? Full of outdated maps and ho-hum restaurant picks, your guidebook is better suited for Grandma’s group tour than a grand night on the town.

Rest easy, mindful traveler. Rather than being something to worry about, discovering your guidebook is awful should actually be cause to celebrate. In fact, you might as well chuck that lousy thing out your hotel window.

Here’s the truth: for anyone looking to add a dose of spontaneity, authentic local culture and plain old randomness to their travels, going guidebook-free is a blessing in disguise. Still not convinced? In an era of ever-present Internet and cheap mobile phones, you’re never more than a step away from all the information you’ll ever need. Keep reading below for four ways to get rid of those guidebook woes, once-and-for-all.Enjoy the Randomness
Wait a second. An expert travel site is telling me to spend my hard-earned vacation wandering around aimlessly, with no plan whatsoever? Yes. Travel isn’t just about checking sights off a list. It’s about immersing yourself in an experience totally different than what you’re used to at home. The best way to do that is to lose the guidebook and get lost. Walk down a street you don’t recognize. Get on a city bus that you don’t know the destination. Talk to a random stranger. Do anything really. The point is that without a plan, you’re all the more likely to have rewarding, unexpected experiences. They might not end how you “planned” – but all the better.

Pull out your mobile phone
In an era of super-smart Internet-ready mobile phones, guidebooks aren’t just out of date: they’re downright obsolete. Whether you need the public transit schedule in San Francisco, are looking to track down some good Cuban food in Miami or want instant translations of a foreign language menu, a mobile phone with a data connection can likely find you the answer. From Augmented Reality to Location Services, mobile phones have become the new guidebook. Best of all, they’re a guidebook that fits comfortably in your pocket.

Ask a local
You won’t find the best tips for a destination in a guidebook. Instead, savvy travelers know to ask the locals. Even if you think you know your destination’s most important sites, locals will often suggest off-the-beaten activities and unexpected highlights that even the most detailed up-to-date guidebook would never find. What if you don’t know any locals in your destination? Not a problem. Either strike up a conversation when you arrive (don’t worry, they won’t bite) or use web tools like Twitter, Facebook or Couchsurfing to ask around for help. Thanks to the wonder of the Internet, you’ll have a local showing you around in no time.

Not loving your guidebook? Perhaps it’s time you gave it up. These days, with help from technology, local expertise and a little willingness to be surprised, traveling without it is easier and more enjoyable than you think.

[Photo by Flickr user Matt Murf]

Google Goggles helps you explore the world with your phone

Ever needed a quick translation of a foreign menu? Wanted to identify an unknown landmark? A new app called Google Goggles offers mobile users highly useful way to decipher the world around us using the camera on your mobile phone. This new service for Android users makes it remarkably simple to find quick translations of foreign languages, identify landmarks or even pick a bottle of wine, all rolled into one.

To use Google Goggles, all you need to do is launch the app and take a photo using your phone’s camera. See a word on the menu in Paris that you don’t recognize? Skip the guidebook and send a picture. You’ll be given a translation right on your phone. Or maybe you’re walking around and want to know more about a building or landmark. Send a photo of it and you’ll be delivered an explanation. It’s a new way of searching the world visually, tapping into Google’s vast database and the increasing power of mobile devices. Much like augmented reality and location services, mobile devices now allow travelers the ability to make the real world ‘clickable’ – almost as if you were surfing the web.

Although Google Goggles is a tremendous leap forward for travelers, it’s still not universal to all mobile phone users. To download the app, you have to be an owner of one of Google’s compatible Android devices (sorry iPhone owners) like the Nexus One or Droid running version 1.6 or above. If that’s you, you can find Google Goggles by searching and downloading it from the Android Marketplace. The recognition software is also not perfect. The technology is still in its infancy so don’t expect every image you send in to be recognized. Still, the concept of Google Goggles is exciting one for travelers. For anyone with a mobile phone, a whole new range of services is on the horizon.