Application Name: GeoCam (originally Theodolite)
Description: Augmented reality app that shows compass direction, GPS coordinates, orientation on camera view, plus much more.
Publisher’s website: None
Cost: Free ad-supported version; paid version removes ads, adds video recording and KML export.
Version/date reviewed: v.1.63 / 2-22-11
Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.2
Multi-purpose apps can be a mixed blessing; it’s nice to have multiple functions in a single app, but sometimes each individual function is inferior to that in another app dedicated solely to that function. Ulysse Gizmo has been the biggest exception to that issue I’ve reviewed so far, in that all that functions are well-executed. I’d now include GeoCam – it has a lot of functions, some rarely found on other apps, and performs most of them well.
The primary function of GeoCam is to show you the compass direction you’re pointing, GPS coordinates, and phone orientation/tilt, superimposed as an augmented reality (AR) view on the camera display. You can then take a photograph of that view with the additional data superimposed, to have it for your records. When I saw this in an earlier beta version, the one thing I had hoped for was the option to take a picture without all the superimposed data …
… and the app’s author apparently read my mind, because this feature showed up in a later release.
Here’s the view on the camera screen, minus the actual camera input (which doesn’t show up on screen captures). The red square is a guide to getting the phone aligned correctly; when the phone has zero tilt angles, that red box will turn green and align with the green box in the center of the display.
In addition to the information/data displays, there are buttons/sliders to access various controls. The blue magnifying glass at upper left …
… brings up a data screen with position and orientation data. The icon immediately to its right turns on/off adding the AR data to any photos you take The red slash on the icon signifies that no AR data is added to the photo, and tapping on that icon will remove the red slash and put it into the mode that includes orientation data as an overlay on the photo.’
The camera icon at the upper right takes a photo, but you can also use your phone’s hardware camera button as well. Red icon in the lower-left exits the program, though the Back button seems to work as well. The blue “i” brings up a reasonably-comprehensive in-app help screen. The flag/map buttons at lower right? I’ll save those for tomorrow.
The yellow-highlighted arrow at the right brings up a settings/menu screen if you tap on it; you can also bring this screen up by pressing the phone’s Menu button.
There are three settings tabs, Cam (for camera settings), Geo (tomorrow) and Set (which lets you modify the color and font used in the AR orientation overlays). Above is Cam, with the Brightness subsetting selected. You can adjust the photo’s exposure by sliding the numbers at left to highlight the desired over/underexposure with the red line. For my Droid X phone, the view in the camera display always seems to be brighter than the final photo taken, so if I adjust the exposure to be lower, the resulting photos are too dark; YMMV with your phone.
The next camera subsetting lets you modify the picture tints for monochrome, sepia, negative, solarize, and various tints. At least for me, this doesn’t really offer any useful functionality.
The final camera subsetting supposedly lets you select the photo resolution from all the phone’s supported pixel sizes, but on my Droid X, you only get one choice; the author says he’s working on figuring that one out.
In the Set section, you can choose the color of the orientation overlay for best results. Bright sets it to pure white for darker background images, Light (seen above) sets it darker for light images, and Cockpit (seen in the first pictures above) sets it to green. I’ve found that Cockpit is the best all-around choice, as it’s clearly visible under most circumstances.
Other issues: Compass direction is magnetic; I would really hope that the option to set that to true direction is added soon. For now, you have to manually correct for the magnetic declination. And I hope support for all camera photo resolutions will be fixed eventually.
Final thoughts (Part I): If this were all GeoCam did, it would be a must-have app. But it adds some additional AR geographic functionality, plus some measurement capabilities, which I’ll cover tomorrow in Part Two.