Qualcomm has high hopes for augmented reality gaming

The first version of its software development kit will arrive in the second quarter

Qualcomm's augmented reality can add virtual content onto a printed landscape.

Qualcomm's augmented reality can add virtual content onto a printed landscape.

Qualcomm is demonstrating a number of augmented-reality games for Android-based smartphones at Mobile World Congress. The games were developed using its AR SDK software development kit.

Augmented reality refers to the way computer-generated content is superimposed on a live camera view of the real world, "augmenting" that view with additional information. Qualcomm's augmented-reality platform is computer vision-based, using image detection to identify elements of the view it can augment. Other systems might use a phone's GPS receiver, compass and accelerometer to determine where they are and in which direction they are facing in order to add pertinent location information.

Qualcomm demonstrated a basketball game played with a printout of a basketball backboard fixed to a wall. The software identifies the backboard in images and draws on a virtual rim and ball: the aim of the game is to score. As the players move their phones around, they can shoot from different angles. Allowing the players to move around in the real world, with the game adapting to those movements, is what augmented reality adds to the mobile gaming experience, said Qualcomm business development manager Roy Lawrence Ashok Inigo.

Qualcomm announced the winners of its 2010 Augmented Reality Developer Challenge at Mobile World Congress. The competition started in July, when the company first publicized its plans for an augmented reality platform and the SDK.

The developers have been using the beta version of Qualcomm's SDK, released in October last year. About 50 applications were submitted, which is good for such a short time frame, said Inigo. It shows there is an interest among developers for augmented reality, he said.

The winner in the challenge is a game called Paparazzi, where the player becomes a virtual paparazzo. Second place went to Inch High Stunt Guy, where the player arranges various obstacles to enable a stuntman to successfully jump his motorbike through a hoop. Danger Copter won third prize with a game in which where the player becomes a helicopter pilot who maneuvers a water-spouting chopper over a virtual city to extinguish fires and rescue people.

Besides games, Qualcomm foresees the technology being used to enhance ads, product packages and education.

The 1.0 version of the SDK should arrive early in the second quarter, according to Inigo.

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