Not only virtual

Mobile applications become more and more popular every year, but most of them still are not able to interact with the real world around them.

But a good developer knows how to make an app more interactive, and much more interesting for end user. In this blog post I would like to list and briefly describe some of them.

1. Camera – this is really powerful part of the smartphone, currently built-in cameras are able to capture image with quality comparable with DSLR’s, this gives a lot of opportunities for developer, most popular use cases are:

  • barcode scanner – recognizing 1D/2D barcodes enables app to identify an object, or redirect user to desired URL, currently iOS supports scanning objects natively, for Android devices there are many open source libraries, which might be easy integrated even with existing app, e.g. https://github.com/zxing/zxing/
  • augmented reality – a technology, which didn’t become very popular, however is really interesting and gives programmer a lot of possibilities to give app user a lot of fun. Probably most popular solution based on AR is IKEA app, which enables user to place his future couch in any place of the room and check how will it fit. Same as in case of barcode, there are a lot of available libraries, which might be used to add AR to mobile application, e.g. http://sourceforge.net/projects/artoolkit/

2. Wireless communication – probably most convenient way of interaction, as in most cases it doesn’t demand a lot of effort from app user.

  • Bluetooth – very popular in recent time, especially since Bluetooth 4.0 standard became integrated with all new iOS devices, also a lot of android phones already support this technology, it might be used as a communication with health trackers.
  • NFC – technology available only in some Android devices, however enables a lot of real-world solutions, which make our life easier, NFC is used mostly as a payment method (instead of plastic card) and as a virtual key for door locks.

Mobile apps will increasingly connect to and “talk with” many real world sights, sounds, and services around them, making the apps increasingly interesting and useful to users.