California investor says augmented reality will enhance mobile social games'

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Tonchidot technology in actionOsuke Honda, a partner with Menlo Park, Calif.-based venture capital firm DCM, just invested $12 million in a Japanese augmented reality company Tonchidot. The company develops software that smartphones like an iPhone or Android can use to place an imaginary layer over what's seen through the phone's camera. Combine that technology with geo-tagging service similar to Foursquare and social features akin to Zynga's series of Facebook games to make for what Honda believes will "enhance the mobile social game," but how?

According to Honda, approximately one-third of all Japanese iPhone users have downloaded Tonchidot's first augmented reailty app, Sekai Camera. The app allows users to place "Air Tags" on locations and items in the real world through the app for other users to find and share through their smartphones. That's quaint, but again, this is still a stretch from social gaming.

"In gaming, we see a third wave as 3-D and the intersection of the virtual and the real. Combining social location technology with this third wave becomes really powerful," Honda said. In other words, combing the elements of augmented reality games like Sekai Camera, social location in vein of Foursquare, social game mechanics such as sharing and 3D graphics could be the next step for social games, according to Honda.

When check-in services like Foursquare and SCVNGR are taking off along with augmented reality apps like Layar gaining momentum, Honda just might be right; at least for Japan, anyway. How long it might take for this trend to make it to the U.S. is uncertain, but it could very well be Tonchidot's technology that takes us into the next, even creepier phase of social games.

[Via Wall Street Journal and Venture Wire]

How do you feel about social games coming to your phone in augmented reality? Would you play an augmented reality game like Sekai Camera if 3D graphics and Facebook sharing were involved? Sound off in the comments. Add Comment.
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