ST-Ericsson Will Have First Phone With Augmented Reality Chip, Maybe This Year

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There’s this really cool, funny, slick video made by a bunch of Israelis called Sight, in which a guy walks around in a world where everything he sees is overlayed by augmented reality. Everything. All the time. Sounds far-fetched? Not so much anymore.

Today, Metaio announced that their new augmented-reality chip, called the Metaio AREngine, will make its debut in ST-Ericsson phones — in a handset(s) that may be available to the public as soon as the end of this year, or early 2014 if things move more slowly.

What this means is that augmented reality has turned a corner. As it stands now, AR apps can be painfully slow and jerky, making practical applications awkward to use; the large processor resources demanded by AR applications also makes it difficult for developers to add cooler, more persistent features. But a chip would change all that.

“The future of AR will be always on, always augmented,” says Metaio CTO Peter Meier in the little clip below Metaio put together for the announcement. And from today’s press release: “The AREngine will do for Augmented Reality what the GPU did years ago for the gaming industry,” he says.

I spoke with Metaio, and they said the chip is blazing fast, and “turns whatever you’re looking at into a window.” Understandably, they’re pretty excited. And so are we: Imagine an augmented reality phone, driven by something like Metaio’s AREngine, shunting video to projection glasses, with smooth, persistent augmented reality.

Here’s the clip Metaio created for the announcement.

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