Does Augmented Reality Need a Dedicated Device?

Augmented reality — the idea of overlaying relevant digital information on top of a view of the real world — is, in a word, futuristic. And while many people are excited about it, many are turned off by all this fuss with not much to show for it. Out of concern that early and incomplete AR demo products make a bad name for the technology, a new startup called QderoPateo is attempting to make an end-to-end platform for augmented reality. That includes building and releasing its own phone chipset, hardware and operating system, as well as APIs, applications, advertising sales and an AR industry consortium.

The QderoPateo Ouidoo phone prototype

Yup, you read that right, a tiny startup is making its own phone — for a market that doesn’t exist yet. But I’ll go ahead and lay out QderoPateo’s idea, as it’s notable for its ambition alone. The company was founded by Steve Chao of China and Matt Gaines of the U.S., who had been working on similar projects separately and found each other online. They raised a Series A round — “several million” from CWG Wireless — before they had actually met. Under the QderoPateo name, they have designed a phone called the Ouidoo, partnered with a Southern Chinese manufacturer, and are working with China Mobile and an unnamed U.S. carrier. They hope to have demos in the spring launch this fall at the Shanghai 2010 World Expo.

“The market has branded many things as AR that aren’t,” said Chao in a phone interview, disparaging projects that use markers such as barcodes to inform a phone of what it is seeing. “The baseline is image recognition.” For the Ouidoo device, Chao promises 2GB RAM and an 8GB chipset with two dual-core parallel processors to handle interactive 3D images. The phone uses triangulation between accelerometers, gyrometers and GPS to calculate its user’s location 10 times more accurately than GPS alone, according to the company.

In the meantime, Qdero knows it

Screenshot from QderoPateo's forthcoming iPhone app

needs to get something into the broader market — and to that end, an iPhone application called WorldLenns that demonstrates its computer vision is due next month (see screenshot).

Along with fees for device use, Qdero is building out a platform for proximity-based marketing, and to that end its 30-member team already includes salespeople.

Clearly, QderoPateo’s plan is too ambitious to work — augmented reality stands a much better chance of becoming mainstream by being incorporated by powerful device makers — but I don’t fault them for trying to give us a glimpse of the future a little sooner than that.

Related research from GigaOM Pro (subscription required): Report: Augmented Reality Today and Tomorrow