US mobile search pioneer GeoVector is turning heads with a New Zealand-developed application that allows people to discover businesses and landmarks and call up information on them simply by pointing their smartphone in any direction.
The application, World Surfer, works on the iPhone 3GS and smartphones running Google's Android operating system.
Both have built-in GPS chips and compasses, so that they can work out where they are and in which direction they are pointing.
The software calls up information from web sources such as Google Maps, Microsoft search engine Bing and Wikipedia, and in New Zealand, details of restaurants, accommodation and landmarks stored in the database of local electronic mapping company GeoSmart.
Auckland-based vice-president Arron Judson says GeoVector is in discussions with real-estate firms and social networking sites. "There is a bunch of cool channels we can add to this application."
GeoVector is based in San Francisco, but does much of its development in New Zealand. World Surfer was made in part to showcase GeoVector's technology and intellectual property, Mr Judson says.
The iPhone application costs US$2.99 (NZ$4) and the less fully featured Android version is free for the time being, as it is hard to charge for Android applications.
Development was outsourced to Auckland firms Cactus Labs and SimWorks.
Between 1000 and 5000 copies of World Surfer were downloaded to Android phones during the first week after its launch, and a "slightly smaller number" to iPhones.
GeoVector was founded by laptop pioneer John Allenby, with the slogan "click on the real world".
Japanese investors pumped US$8 million (NZ$10.7m) into the company in 2006.
New Zealand shareholders own less than 10 per cent of the firm.
The 12-person company has strong patents in the field of location-based services, which it is excited about, but it doesn't want to use these to hold back the market, Mr Judson says.
"We want to encourage this space to grow. We don't want to do anything that stifles innovation and growth."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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