WhereMark Augmented Reality Browser
I was on holiday when WhereMark hit the iPhone store in December, but I was in contact with the developers back in September when they released a preview video to Youtube and remember being excited about it.
Having had a chance to test the released version I have to say they have done a pretty good job and lived up to my expectations.
The application is a landscape app, as soon as it loads you are presented with a very simple UI with the compass in the bottom right and an options icon in the bottom left. Clicking the options icon brings up a snazzy interface that controls the search criteria without removing the camera view. At first I struggled with trying to switch to the map view, trying the usual mix of laying the iPhone flat and waiting for the view to change but it didn’t take too long to figure out that to switch you just click the compass icon.
In the options menu you wont find any options to control the search range, instead you’ll use the screens multi touch to drag the range to the required distance. This has the cool effect of making the results icons in the camera view get larger or smaller which gives you a sense of scale. As you use the application regularly you’ll no doubt build up a list of favorites, your home, local bar, friends house etc. At the touch of a button these can be saved as favorites (called WhereMarks) and called up for future use.
Like Wikitude you can search across multiple sources at any one time and the search results are easily identified so you’ll know which POI has found the result. Searches include: bars, restaurants, tubes (subways) stations, train stations, bus terminals, attractions, Wikipedia and a free text web search.
The data accuracy is generally good, when using the restaurants POI it passed my benchmark of finding my local Indian restaurant (though it missed the Chinese opposite) , it did however fail to find most of my local bars using the bars POI and interestingly my local Indian restaurant showed up in the bars results. These faults can’t be attributed to the application, if you have read any of my previous head to head challenges you’ll know that all the augmented reality browsers use different data sources and often give up strange results.
As with all first versions there are a couple of niggly bits, generally the app is polished and I feel I am going out my way to be picky but here goes. Firstly, I complained about Wikitude and Layar only showing kilometers so its only fair to point out that WhereMark only uses miles. Great for the US and UK but annoying for the rest of Europe. Also in the picky department, while the augmented reality part of the application is in landscape, it does switch to portrait when you view the map or click a search result for more information so you’ll constantly be rotating your phone. Finally the search icons are difficult to see whether they are active or inactive, I found myself turning them on and off repeatedly. On a bright sunny day outside it would be impossible to tell so it would be worth introducing some color to highlight when they are active.
Augmented reality browsers come and go, some show promise and then disappear into obscurity never to be updated again. I really hope that the WhereMark guys don’t become one of these and keep up the development. I am impressed so far and it’s definitely an app that will stay on my phone and be included in future augmented reality browser head to head challenges. WhereMark isn’t a Layar or Wikitude killer just yet but it does feel like it could become a worthy rival.
WhereMark is free and can be installed from the Apple AppStore.
Watch the preview video