Sekai Camera (World Camera in Japanese) is an iPhone-exclusive social tagging service developed by Tokyo-based mobile application provider Tonchidot. The company’s TechCrunch50 presentation (and following Q&A) was pretty hard to understand because of the language barrier but Sekai Camera turned out to be a crowd-pleaser nonetheless.
The key idea is to use the iPhone as a mobile information terminal, linking the real world with tags generated by Sekai Camera users, Tonchidot itself, and information scraped from other web services. Users walk around town looking at the iPhone’s display to get information on their surroundings. If you walk through a mall, for example, Sekai Camera tags will show you where you can find something to eat, additional information about a certain product tagged before, or how many are calories in a chocolate bar.
The video shows additional examples of what Sekai Camera is able to do. Asked what kind of technology is actually used by Tonchidot, Marketing Director Peter Anshin said the company doesn’t want to talk about details at this point. But it is obviously using either GPS or cell-tower triangulation, and the iPhone’s accelerometer seems to be measuring the angle of what’s in view. Anshin does say that no image-recognition technology is being used.
Sekai Camera was surely a fan favorite and CEO Takahito Iguchi delivered a funny presentation, repeatedly imploring the audience to “Look up, don’t look down!” But he left many questions open: The panelists criticized they didn’t hear anything about the underlying technology and how Tonchidot, from a strategic point of view, intends to tag the whole world for all iPhone owners, which is the company’s ultimate goal.