HP adds a virtual layer to reality

HP has launched a new prototype software suite and associated website called Mscape, designed to overlay digital sight, sound and interactions using GPS-enabled mobile devices.

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By  Cleona Godinho in Shanghai Published  May 9, 2007

HP has launched a new prototype software suite and associated website called Mscape, designed to overlay digital sight, sound and interactions using GPS-enabled mobile devices. According to the firm, these interactive experiences are termed 'mediascapes'. The mediascapes are created using a simple web-based authoring tool on any GPS-enabled handset. When you walk pass the locations in the physical world, the mediascape will activate digital media such as images, text, audio and video. The triggers can be set to react to physical stimuli such as location, proximity, time and movement. Speaking at the HP Mobility Summit, where the beta version of Mscape was launched today, Phil McKinney, vice president and chief technology officer, Personal Systems Group stated, "The Mscapers site puts HP Labs technologies in the hands of consumers, gamers and professional designers so they can imagine what's possible to create with it. This is the first time HP has released software from its Labs programme in beta for people to download for free and use as they wish". McKinney also hopes that the service will encourage users to tell their stories and allow them "to really experience their surroundings". Today McKinney demonstrated HP's vision for Mscape through a game called Roku. In the demo, a real boy can be seen running through the streets of his hometown with a PSP-like gaming device with Roku pe-loaded. As he looks at the screen and walks around various events occur in the game, such as a huge boulder rolling down the digital version of the alley he is physically standing in. In order to survive the boy has to physically run away and get out of harm's way. According to Mckinney, only 50-60% of Roku can be made a reality at present. The software, which is free to download from the www.mscapers.com, can work on any Windows Mobile device with a GPS receiver, including the company's range of HP iPAQ handhelds. Similar to Navman and its Navpics offering, HP has launched a range of games and Mscapes to get people started available for download via the site. So far Mscape has been download 1500 times according to the firm. Tomorrow HP will give this reporter along with other Mobility Summit attendees the chance to create a Mscape and play an original HP Mscape game based on Shanghai's famous People's Square. Mscape was not the only creation to come out of HP Labs at the event. The research and development unit also unveiled a prototype e-book reader. Unlike the majority of the e-book readers on the market today, HP's prototype is a two-page unit, just like a real book, and lets a user turn the pages by gently brushing a thin panel below the LCD, similar to how you would turn a real page. The unit also lets you view pictures downloaded from Snapfish.com - a photo sharing site acquired by HP in 2005. "We've spend a lot of money on usability studies and technology that will prevent users from suffering from eye strain when using this device," stated McKinney. "The reader currently features USB connectivity but if it goes into mass production we will surely add wireless functionality," he concluded.

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