One of the most exciting things I’ve seen at Nokia World 2008 is the Point and Find service: aim a phone camera at an object and the camera detects what it is. Currently set to debut in London and San Francisco, the initial version of the application will be tied to movie posters. Point your camera at a movie poster and the software will identify the movie, fetch reviews, provide links to trailers, and use the GPS in the phone to display the closet cinema and its showtimes for that film.
The movie poster example is perhaps not the best use for this technology, but hey, you have to start somewhere. As I observe in the video above, an obvious use for this technology would be at museums — art and otherwise. No need to check out bulky headphones or carry around info packets. Simply point your phone at the display and get hyperlinked information about the work, its history, and more. As a user, I’m really excited about the opportunities this opens.
As a content producer, I think this is also a terrific new technology. Regional advertising campaigns can use this technology to provide location-specific information about products and services. Education institutions can use this for campus tours. Sport teams can use this to provide historical information about venues, players, and memorabilia.
It remains to be seen how reliable the image recognition process is. I didn’t get a chance to talk nitty-gritty details, but the images are identified by something like a fingerprint: key points are codified into a data file that describes the image, allowing for a small amount of data to describe a more complex image. In this way, a picture of a building could be matched against images from several different angles. Paired with location awareness via GPS, the Point and Find software can instantly filter the list of possible image matches based on where you are. Image matches can be further refined by the scope of the “world” in which you’re using the application. In the “movie poster” world, the application won’t bother trying to look for images of important buildings in your current city, for example.
This looks to be an exciting and surprisingly useful mobile application!