Not so very long ago, video calling was viewed as the killer app for 3G networks. Users would be falling over themselves to buy handsets that allowed them to see, as well as hear, their callers, so the theory went. That theory is now, in the face of user apathy, almost entirely discredited. Nevertheless, some technologists are still adamant that video-over-3G is ready for mainstream adoption.
Researchers at Accenture Labs have developed software which it promises will transform 3G mobile phones into “pocket supercomputers”.
The software uses visual-identification technology capable of identifying images through a mobile phone’s video camera. This information is sent to a remote server, which is then capable of doing all manner of clever analysis on that data, based on user requirements.
For example, a traveller finding himself in a French restaurant where no one speaks English could use the technology to point his phone at the menu, and get instant audio feedback on how to pronounce items on the menu, says Fredrik Linaker of Accenture Labs.
Other uses could apparently include retail shopping and delivery of technical information to customers.
Yet it is hard to escape the nagging suspicion that this is not 3G’s killer app either. For those people in dire need of expertise at the other end of a mobile call, isn’t it just easier to call a person? And if phone users were reluctant to start making video calls to each other, are they any more likely to use it to call a computer?