Written by Yukari Mitsuhashi (@yukari77)
I took part in the Tokyo-camp Startup Meeting vol.5 Location & AR session. Well-known CEO of Tonchidot Corporation, Takahito Iguchi of “Sekai Camera” made the keynote speech. Other speakers included geo-location gaming pioneer like gumi’s Hironao Kunimitsu. The whole event was thrilling, making us feel the era of location-based services has come. I was able to imagine how these geo-location services would play a part in our daily lives, hopefully in the near future. Here’s the summary of the keynote given by Iguchi of Tonchidot Corp., who essentially used business plan document as his presentation material. He told us a lot about where “Sekai Camera” is headed.
“Sekai Camera” uses AR and location information along with user’s air tags to create content and freely share information as a layar put on top of reality. The service launched in September of 2009, and within a span of 4 days saw 100,000 downloads. In both inside and outside of Japan, Sekai Camera is used for events, tourism services and facility information (among other things), and is even being utilized in the retail business. For example, the program is being used as a navigation system by the Matsumoto Kiyoshi drug store chain to transmit information through air tags concerning sales, new products and customer reviews.
Next to arrive is Social + Location + AR services, or “SOLAR”, as Iguchi referred to it. He mentioned that starting from the social game trends for mobile devices like Gree and DeNA and location-based social networks like Foursquare and Gowalla, the third stage will be “SOLAR”. Existing as a platform, entertainment is one of Sekai Camera’s biggest strengths. Air tag contents feature Open API and other media where numbers are constantly increasing, leading to air tag construction that features a mash-up of web-based and location-based information that displays automatically as well as in real-time. While air tags exist as a static entity at this time, in the future it is quite possible that they will be much more dynamic. Air tags could change based on things like the user’s disposition, the time of day or even the climate and other ambient information, resulting in what the company envisions as an offering of high-level, user-appropriate information. It is expected that air tags will evolve to a point where users can interact with one another and cause different actions to occur, crossing the boundaries of simple browsing, allowing joint ownership of material and the visualization of human relationships in area topics or places that users have connected themselves to.
With the iPad version (v1.01), you can see air tags in 14 places throughout the world. Without reliance on the existence of a built-in camera, the offering of the “warp function” allows for the display of air tags using only location information. It’s almost like stepping through a door, users can be “warped” to any location they wish to go. For example, when “warping” to Korea, one’s own profile floats in the area, and you can follow and contact other users in the same area. Another key function, the “air shout” feature, users can communicate with one another as if using a chat interface. Other than text and pictures, users can also leave recordings in air tags, making it possible to offer comments at areas that catch one’s eye, possibly allowing for the gathering of people with the same interests.
Sekai Camera is already available in 90 countries through the Apple Store as well as 46 countries through the Android Market, in addition to support for 7 languages. They are currently realizing low-cost localization for use abroad, and will continue to advance overseas joint market and business development. As for specific plans, the API will see a new version this summer, as well as new content services related to it. They will continue to advance multi-platform support as a prerequisite for continued expansion overseas. Sekai Camera is going global, well, it already is. Presentation document that Iguchi used, were of course, provided in English.
The social aspect of SOLAR being added to the already amazing combination of AR and location information services may be the next big thing. It’s simple — the platform is there, so as the content, but the social aspect will depend entirely on users. In order to overcome that hurdle, new methods have to be devised that would make users want to post more and more air tags, and also create new methods of use to facilitate better communication in daily life. Foursquare and other geo-location check-in services allow users to log in and check comments left by friends for the area they are in. Unfortunately, these left comments, have very low or no relevance to a particular user. With the highly relevant SOLAR service, I can imagine “Sekai Camera” being part of our everyday life.
We should definitely keep an eye on Sekai Camera, and for those who have already bought and are enjoying their iPads, please give the iPad version a try. At @sekaicamera Twitter account, announcements are being made, they’re also looking for feedbacks.