Augmented reality for the backcountry
Peak.AR is a free augmented reality app for the Android and iPhone platforms, that allows you to identify distant peaks by simply pointing your phone’s camera at them. Pretty cool huh?
I mentioned this app before, but now that its available for Android too, I wanted to delve into it a little more. Once you get into it though, it’s a bit bare bones. There are no settings that allow you to switch from meters to feet. You can tap a label to see a 2D map view, giving distance to a peak (see below). Holding the phone flat also switches it to a 2D overview map. I do wish the app would cache peak data, rather than having to reload it each time, putting its usefulness at the mercy of backcountry cellular coverage. Regardless of its limitations though, this is an awesome tool for determining what distant peaks you are looking at.
Electronic compasses are very sensitive, so don’t expect this to work if you’re standing near a large metal object like your car. I suggest calibrating the compass on your phone prior to using this app, just like you would any tri-axial compass, by rotating it in all three planes. Here’s a video demo showing how it’s done with a handheld GPS receiver. Speaking of which, it seems like handheld GPS manufacturers could integrate this functionality into units with a camera (hint, hint).
I tested this app on my Motorola Droid. You can get the iPhone version at iTunes; for the Android version, search the Market for Peak.AR or scan the QR Code below with the Barcode Scanner app.