Tonchidot delights, confuses at TechCrunch 50

winner of the TechCrunch50 were to be chosed on audience cheers alone, Tonchidot’s Sekai Camera would certainly have won by a mile.The Tokyo-based company started as they meant to go on – with much enthusiasm, much gloss and a whole lot of stuff that makes little sense outside of the Akihabara district.The presenter (whose name we never really found out) started with a strong assertion – “Look Up, Not Down!!!”. He then ran a video demo and read the remainder of the presentation in heavily fragmented English, explaining the core ideas and technologies behind the “Sekai Camera”.The Sekai Camera is an application for the iPhone which correlates information about your geographical location, proximity to others and tags which have been added by other users to create a faux-augmented reality which encourages you to wander around with the phone thrust straight out in front of you. It’s not certain what effect this will have on your chances of getting a date.  All roads do lead to Rome, afterall.The greatest issue faced by Tonchidot is how to deal with the ever-changing world around us. As soon a someone has tagged a location with information (for example a favorite store), you can be assured that something will change. Most likely the shop will go out of business and be replaced by something else. When asked how they will deal with this, the response from Tonchidot was “We have a patent” to the delight of audience who erupted in laughter.Many have written with great doubt that the world envisioned by Tonchidot is just around the corner.  While Sekai Camera is boldly ambitious, the technology for realizing immersive real world interaction does exist and has been deployed in limited applications. The illusion is likely that the camera actually contributes little to the information displayed.Another company Earthmine founded in 2006, Berkeley, CA is delivering a platform upon which a product like Sekai Camera might be based.  The video below demonstrates one of two products from Earthmine called Flash Viewer API. A second API, DirectData API, from Earthmine provides the street-level imagery and 3D data required for a “virtual camera to the world.”    Earthmine APIs are available through a private beta and an application is available on their site for developers interested in testing the platform.Less fantastic than those of the web-centric and less mobile savvy audience at TC50 might believe, I’m with Tonchidot and will echo their reply to the judges who could not imagine such an application. “Join us!”

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