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COLCHESTER, EnglandNokia Point & Find has generated a bunch of interest here on Conversations in recent months. So when we recently discovered that a real-world pilot project of the new service was taking place in the nearby city of Colchester in Essex, we hopped on a train to find out what it was like first-hand. Join us after the jump for the first in our two-part report.

If you’re new to the concept of Point & Find, at its most basic it’s a service that lets you point your Nokia camera phone at real-world objects to extract relevant and valuable location-aware information from your surroundings – a concept that is fast becoming popularized by the term Augmented Reality.

To experience Point & Find, you first need to download the beta app to your device – it’s still under development, but the beta app works with stacks of S60 handsets (scroll down to see the full list), although we found the N95 to be the most robust and reliable at this stage of its gestation. You can download the app via Nokia Beta Labs or direct from Point & Find website, where you’ll also be met with more info and videos on what the service enables you to do.

So, armed with our N95 and Point & Find installed, we hit the streets of Colchester to give it a whirl in the real world. Here’s what we did, and how we got on…

Scanning for treasure
Arriving in Colchester, we soon came across one of the Point & Find enabled bus shelters, replete with the set of scannable icons (pictured below), that we highlighted in our original story.

Pictured: From left to right, Download Nokia Point & Find, Local news (BBC news and sport), Entertainment (cinemas, theatre, clubs, bars), Eating (restaurants, pubs, fast food), Shopping (stores and supermarkets), Info (about town, such as nearest ATM), Travel (local taxis, train times, parking and hotel booking).

We thought we’d start with the basics, and tried scanning this series of icons using the Point & Find app. Once you’ve opened the app and entered the ‘Here and Now’ mode, you’re screen acts a a simple viewfinder, much like if you’d expect when taking a regular photo. We began with the orange News icon. Holding our phone far away enough from the icon so it filled the viewfinder was enough for the Point & Find app to recognize it, resulting in the relevant location-based info being sent to our N95 within moments. Using a combination of advanced image recognition programmed into the app, along with GPS and an Internet connection accessing a database of details related to any tagged images, in less than a couple of seconds Point & Find had presented us with a list of links to BBC Essex (the local BBC news service), BBC Sport Essex, as well as a link to the Daily Gazette – the website for the local newspaper.

We had similar success with the blue Entertainment icon, which unearthed links to local cinemas, pubs and bars. Likewise with the green Eating icon, listing nearby places to eat along with addresses, reviews and click-to-call phone numbers to make a reservation should you fancy it. We were met with similar results with each of the other icons. The purple Shopping icon brought up a list of local supermarkets, and nearby general shops. The pink Info icon triggered a link to Wikipedia about Colchester – turns out it’s Britain’s oldest town! Plus, the info icon dug up a local five-day weather forecast for the area. Scanning the grey Travel icon brought up a link to the nearest taxi rank, with a handy click-to-call feature.

This initial introduction to Point & Find left us fired-up and hugely encouraged at the possibilities that ther Point & Find service promises to offer when fully fledged. But in tomorrow’s follow-up piece, we put Point & Find through a tougher set of real-world challenges including scanning posters, barcodes and searching for useful location-based info on the move. So stop by in 24 hours to read part two, and find out how we got on.


Scanning to get local weather forecast >>


Point & Find enabled bus shelters are dotted all over the city >>

Nokia Point & Find currently supports the following handsets: Nokia N97, N97 mini, N96, N95 8GB, N95,N86 8MP, N85, N82, N81, N81 8GB, N79, N78, N76, E71, E66, E63, E51, 6720, 6290, 6220, 6210 Navigator, 6124 Classic 6121 Classic, 6120 Classic, 6110 Navigator, 5700 Xpress Music, 5530 XpressMusic and 5800 XpressMusic

If you want to find out more about Nokia Point & Find, click here.