Now researchers at Hewlett-Packard's (HP) Bristol, UK, lab are writing software that lets people have a little fun with these sensors. Last week, HP Labs launched a site that offers location-based games and city walking tours. The site also offers a tool called a wizard for modifying some of the existing games and tours, and a downloadable software-writing tool kit for more-advanced users who want to create applications from scratch.
"We think this will be a new genre and a new medium of experience," says Phil Stenton, research manager for the project, known as mscapes.
The HP project combines physical data with virtual information, a concept that's known as augmented reality. As location-based technologies have improved and PDAs have become more powerful, various forms of augmented reality have been gaining traction. Nokia is working on a project, for instance, that will help people navigate new areas. The user simply points a cell-phone camera at a restaurant or office building, and, using GPS coordinates, software associates a hyperlink with the image. (See "Hyperlinking Reality via Phones.") In the commercial world, some museums and tour companies--including one that takes people around San Francisco--use location-detecting gadgets to guide sightseers.
So now we're moving towards sensoring the future through our phones...