App uses 'augmented reality' to point way to Japan's elusive free Wi-Fi

Navigating by augmented reality can be useful in dense cities like Tokyo

This screenshot from Navitime for Japan Travel shows the augmented reality function pointing the way to free Wi-Fi at Starbucks, tucked behind the buildings on the right.

This screenshot from Navitime for Japan Travel shows the augmented reality function pointing the way to free Wi-Fi at Starbucks, tucked behind the buildings on the right.

Telecom carrier NTT and navigation service developer Navitime Japan are trying to make free Wi-Fi in Japan easier to find with an app featuring augmented reality (AR) guidance.

Navitime for Japan Travel, available for free for iOS and Android devices, allows users to find the nearest free Wi-Fi providers through an offline search using location data. It also displays the locations of other facilities such as restaurants and tourist attractions.

AR refers to technologies in which a live view of the environment is layered with graphics, text or other data. Typically they involve layering mapping information over live footage from a smartphone camera.

With Navitime for Japan Travel, users hold up the screen to their surroundings, hit "look in AR mode" and footage from the device's camera will be overlaid with the distance to a destination and an arrow pointing the way.

But the app can be unreliable as an AR guide. Not only can you suddenly find yourself getting farther away from a destination when trying to approach it, your device can easily lose its location signal.

Where AR can work well is in dense urban settings where a tall building can house dozens of shops and none of them has a sign in English. When close enough to the destination, Navitime for Japan Travel can help users distinguish the right building and business where there's free Wi-Fi.

There are tens of thousands of free Wi-Fi spots that travelers can find through the app, most of which are Hikari Station LANs run by NTT East, which require registration. NTT East is a regional subsidiary of NTT.

The app was developed to help visitors who have trouble getting online for free in Japan. Free Wi-Fi can be hard to find even in a metropolis like Tokyo.

"In general, we acknowledge that there is a lot of discussion of there being much fewer free Wi-Fi spots in Japan compared to other countries, but as a telecommunications operator, we are not in the position to comment on this situation or its causes," said Yuri Murase, a representative of NTT East's New Business Development Headquarters.

"As for the Hikari Station public wireless LAN access point service provided by our company, as of January 2014 there are around 40,000 shops and facilities that have it. By continuing to expand the number of access points, we will contribute to improving the convenience of international tourists visiting Japan."

The app also covers the locations of some 10,000 Freespot free Wi-Fi services provided by Buffalo, the storage and peripherals maker, and 1,000 Starbucks coffee shops with free Wi-Fi.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags NTTInternet-based applications and servicesNavitime Japaninternet

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Tim Hornyak

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?