Cambridge app sparks world of opportunity
A young Cambridge company is taking the world by storm with a new mobile phone app that brings stunning animation and audio capability to the printed page.
The Popcode app, highlighted by Business Weekly in December, created by Cambridge University students Simon Taylor and Connell Gauld with their supervisor Dr Tom Drummond sparks into life static graphics and data on all kinds of printed material.
Point your phone at the picture of a flame and it will blaze into animated life and flicker in front of your eyes. Bare facts are transformed into illuminating commentary. Now enabled for Apple iOS and Android phones, Popcode has been used on the programme for Cambridge University’s Science Festival (March 14-27).Download the free app 'pop the Popcode', and point your phone or iPod touch (4th gen) at the front cover of the Science Festival programme. If you haven't got a programme yet, you can try it on the website: comms.group.cam.ac.uk/sciencefestival/popcodeThe pictures of flaming chemical symbols start to flicker and dance, and each symbol spins in succession to reveal the name of the element. Tap a symbol and you hear the voice of Cambridge chemistry outreach stalwart Dr Peter Wothers, whose lectures are a sell-out at the Festival, introducing each featured element and its common uses, including those key to the make-up of the phone in your hand.The Popcode app uses the camera feature on a mobile to create a 'mash-up' of the real and virtual, enabling the user to see an extra digital layer that is anchored to the physical world through the 'window' of their phone. It is an example of AR (Augmented Reality), the latest emerging phone technology that can take a live view of the real world and then add to or 'augment' it with computer-generated sound and visuals.Simon Taylor said: “We see all sorts of potential applications for Popcode. Essentially it could be used anywhere there is a physical object that can be connected to additional information.”Its creators feel that one of the strengths of Popcode lies in its 'markerless' ability. Whereas some AR technologies require large printed black and white markers to link the digital to the physical, Popcode can add content to any image, provided it has enough texture. Taylor added: “We expect advertisers in particular will start to make use of the technology, but there are also plenty of great educational uses where books and posters can be made more interactive.”Cambridge Enterprise is providing support in licensing the technology to Korean-based AR company Zenitum, as well as to Extra Reality Limited, the company formed by the inventors. Cambridge Enterprise is convinced the technology will be a global commercial winner and has helped the company gain international traction.“We'd like to open up Popcode to third party developers in the near future,” Taylor added.“It's already possible for people to put content together on their own computers and devices using our free developer kit, and soon we hope to allow people to associate their content with a piece of Popcode, so that users of the app are able to view it as easily as they can with the Science Festival programme cover.”• PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS: Simon Taylor and Connell Gauld