Stephen S. Wu-- SL: Legal Writer,, (408) 573-5737, 50 W. San Fernando St., Ste. 750, San Jose, CA 95113

Can Virtual Worlds Augment Reality?

I read with interest the news stories about an iPhone-controlled toy helicopter on display at the Consumer Electronics Show a few weeks ago. Click here for one such story. At the show, a company called Parrot revealed the new toy foam helicopter remotely controlled by an iPhone over WiFi. Parrot plans to roll out games, in which streaming video from the toy goes to the iPhone, and the iPhone screen displays “augmented reality” (AR).
The AR would make the iPhone display show more than the video from the camera on the helicopter. For instance, the screen would show the helicopter fighting virtual robots or other targets. The virtual objects would “augment” the raw video from the camera on the helicopter to create a composite video.

If AR software can make a video game out of the video streamed from a toy flying over the backyard, it seems that AR software should be able to make a virtual world out of video streamed from outdoors. So perhaps we will see virtual worlds companies making use of AR.

In addition, the AR programs raise some interesting questions. Will we see new cases about copyright infringement based on images of famous buildings in these new AR applications? What about fly-bys of outdoor sculptures? I guess we will have to wait to see. In the meantime, we can enjoy AR games as they roll out for the pure fun of them.