American academics have developed an augmented reality game to encourage people to upload data from their phones to help with research.
Crowd Soft Control (CSC) games use augmented reality (AR) to subtly direct people to certain places in a city to gather information with their smartphones, such as the photographic data needed to extract the 3D properties of a building, Northwestern University announced on Friday.
"By leveraging the incentives of such location-based applications (eg - offering bonus points for visiting a certain location), users' actions can be manipulated to achieve a network service's goal (eg - taking a measurement at that location)," Northwestern University academics wrote in an academic paper that described the research (PDF).
To test out their idea the researchers built an AR game named 'Ghost Hunter' which they distributed to some Northwestern University students. The game let people seek and find ghosts whose locations are determined by the game's designers, then 'zap' them by photographing them. The researchers placed the ghosts at certain locations around a library on the Northwestern campus. As people 'zapped' the ghosts their phones uploaded the photographs, eventually giving the researchers all the data needed to build a 3D model of the building.
"Preliminary evaluation of our prototype implementation shows a 72 percent improvement in coverage over traditional opportunistic measurements," the researchers said, where 'opportunistic measurements' are images uploaded to Flickr, for example.
"Privacy remains a key concern, as in all mobile systems," the researchers continued. "However, CSC adds no additional loss of privacy beyond that of existing location-based applications. Similarly, there is a potential risk of allowing researchers to 'lure' users toward potentially dangerous areas."