Wikitude Augmented Reality browser and BlackBerry Messenger - cool or creepy?

BBM and Wikitude - Cool or Creepy?
By Joseph Holder on 31 Aug 2011 11:30 am EDT

The other night, a curious thing happened: I got a BlackBerry Messenger contact request. That in itself is nothing really out of the ordinary; my BlackBerry Messenger bar code is floating out there on the internets.  I almost alwasys ignore the contacts I don't recognize. No, this request came via the Wikitude Augmented Reality browser on this BlackBerry Torch 9850 that I just reviewed. A gentleman named Dustin saw my BBM name in his Wikitude browser and used the application to make the BBM contact request. Figuring that there are very few Joseph Holder's out there with BlackBerry OS7 devices, Justin correctly guessed that I write for We had a brief conversation, and I got to feel like a (rather) minor celebrity for a bit.

The whole exchange got me to thinking. Is finding new BBM contacts using the Wikitude browser cool or a little creepy? When we discussed the feature on one of our podcasts, I remember thinking that I was leaning toward the creepy side. After this one encounter with the service, my mind is made up. Finding new people through the Wikitude Augmented Reality Browser is not cool; it is very cool.

How it Works

We've already seen a couple of videos demonstrating how to find a person's BBM contact using the Wikitude AR browser - and indeed find a person. After starting the AR browser, selecting the BlackBerry Messenger world view will show you visible BBM contacts within a certain distance. Turning around in a circle, you can actually see where those BBM users are in relation to you. Tapping one of the tags starts the standard BBM invite request. In many ways, adding contacts through the Wikitude browser is just one of the many, many ways to add a BBM contact.

How people will actually use this feature remains to be seen. Research In Motion has focused its demonstrations in the business setting. Think of a business meeting on the golf course. I know it's cliché, but a lot of business still gets done on the back nine. Let's say you want to add your new client, Bill, to your BBM contacts. Just find him in the Wikitude browser and add as a contact. No fumbling around with cameras and barcodes needed. Sure there are many ways to add a BBM contact; using the Wikitude browser is just cooler.

Now imagine that you've lost track of Bill. After finishing the 18th green with a 3-putt bogie, Bill just ...disappeared. Remembering that you just found him in the AR browser, you start Wikitude and soon meet up with your client in the clubhouse. After that round, Bill needed a bit more than a soda to quench his thirst.

Me, I think the Wikitude Augmented Reality browser will be used for flirting. Think about it. Gazing through the Wikitude browser, you spot an attractive person sitting across the bar/club/pot luck dinner. Even better, there's a BBM contact tag right next to them on the screen. You tentatively send out a BBM contact request and start up a conversation.

This isn't out of what is already ordinary for BlackBerry Messenger. In Saudi Arabia, it's not uncommon for single men to stencil their BlackBerry Messenger bar code to the back of their vehicle. Why? To meet girls, of course. Interested parties can scan the code and start a conversation.

Dispelling the Creepiness

Finding contacts in the Wikitude AR browser is only creepy if you let it be. 

First and foremost, you are in complete control over who sees you in the Wikitude browser. When it comes to being found in the AR browser, you can choose to be invisible; visible only to your existing contacts; or visible to the world. At any time, I can change how others' Wikitude browsers see my BBM contact information. By default, the Wikitude browser is disconnected from BlackBerry messenger. To make yourself visible to the Public (BBM name, avatar, and status message), you'll have to connect Wikitude to BBM and set your status to Public. Both options are found at the top of the Wikitude app's settings (inside the Wikitude app, press the menu key and select Settings).

Okay, you say to yourself, I can use the Wikitude Augmented Reality browser to find and be found by other BBM users. I even have control over who can see me. But what if one of my new contacts is a jerk, contacting me at all hours of the night? BlackBerry Messenger has had that one covered for a while. It's very simple to delete a BBM contact (highlight the contact, press the menu key, and select "Delete Contact"), and if the person tried to add you as a contact again, it's a simple matter to block all future requests as well.

In this way, BBM is superior to text messaging. Giving out a number so a person can SMS message you means they can always contact you for as long as you have that phone number. In my experience, it is a huge headache trying to get the phone company to block specific numbers. With BBM, you're just a few simple clicks away from blocking someone from messaging you forever.

Defining the Etiquette

BlackBerry etiquette 

Perhaps the reason we are wary of finding new BBM contacts using the Wikitude Augmented Reality Browser is because it is a brand new thing. There are no rules for its use, no guidelines to follow. Manners and politeness are extremely important in both the business and social worlds. But even the great Amy Dickinson might pause for more than a moment when asked for advice on this subject.

Therefore, it is up to us to define what is appropriate and what is not. For example, if you change your Wikitude settings to allow your BBM location data to be Public, I feel that means that you are willing to get - actually expecting to get - BBM contact requests from strangers. I've met some interesting - albeit random - people in forums and chats around the internets. Is this all that different? At the very least, you'll always have a conversation starter: how much you love your new OS7 BlackBerry Smartphone.

On the other hand, I feel the generic "[BBM Name] would like to add you as a contact" message sent when adding a new contact is woefully insufficient for this purpose. Unless you're sitting face-to-face with your potential contact, you should introduce yourself in the contact request message. How that introduction is made is up to you, but ones that begin, "I've been watching you for the last two hours..." will most certainly find their contact request Declined and Blocked.

Sum it All Up

Wikitude AR Browser with BBM in a nutshell 

So where does that leave us? The Wikitude AR browser gives us the chance to add and be added by contacts that we might not never encounter without the service. It gives us yet another BlackBerry Choice for adding new BBM contacts. It lets us find Bill - our golfing client - at the 19th hole.

Is making your BBM self available to be found by others really all that scary? You always have the option to make yourself invisible. You always have the option to decline or ignore a contact. You always have the option to delete and possibly block a contact.

Ultimately, the decision to use the BBM features of the Wikitude Augmented Reality Browser is up to you. Certainly, there are bound to be some awkward moments as we as a BlackBerry community begin to decide just what is impolite, rude, or irritating. On the flipside, those who choose to use the BBM features will be the ones who will define its etiquette. Quite literally, finding contacts using the Wikitude AR browser will be what we make of it.

Reader comments

Wikitude Augmented Reality browser and BlackBerry Messenger - cool or creepy?


I don't find having my BBM listed for randoms creepy, but I am a little uneasy about my GPS location being broadcast as well. have mine set to Public for now to test it out, but change it to contact son my paranoia days!

It doesn't have to be set to Public always. Maybe in situations where you want to be social, for example at an outdoor event, or a huge party; you can set it to Contacts or Public.

If you're just out shopping or whatever, you could always make yourself invisible.

That's how I plan to use it once Telus starts selling the 9860

People used to think having a telephone in your house was creepy.
With time, this will become very common and feel normal.

This is pretty cool!

I will have to enable Wikitude bbm integration!
I should have used this to find swim suit model crackberryKevin at the sushi place last night,

As a 6'3" 230lb man I could careless who sees me or adds me but if I was a 5'3" 112lb woman I might be a little sketched out at the idea of a random person being able to, not only add me but also being able to track me with their gps to my house. Seems shady.

You can turn off the discovery mode on your phone so no one can see you OR only your contact can see you. \

I don't know. Could potentially be very creepy. I don't like the idea of people being able to find me. But I'm paranoid.

you have the option to make yourself "invisible" to others, so I don't think its creepy. But that picture above sure is!

its cool...i actually met a girl...who works for Blackberry. she goes to stores and trains people. pretty cool..she even forwarded me her business card etc. i told her im on crackberry all the time. she is also on beta zone. and last night she sent me an invite code to bbm music. fyi...she is a pretty girl. been working for RIM for while now.

woah.. wait.... I thought it was only for your contacts!??? You can find new contacts that way!??? ok... that has the potential for being creepy, but its kinda cool too. lol

I've loved my experiments with Wikitude and I'm still debating the creepiness myself. I've got it set so that I am only visible to people already in my contacts and will likely keep it that way at least for now. I don't have those situations like the business golfing context, so it would be fairly rare that I would want to be found using it by people I know, and I'm just not sure I really want to add random people through it.

I find it completely creepy when it comes to the "public" option... But the contacts only is awesome. But I would like more control, optional individual settings per contact would be awesome!

Nope, Wikitude's augmented reality only works on (and can only find) OS 7 devices because they're the only ones with magnetometers.

This feature is pretty cool. But does anyone know how to troubleshoot it so the location is correct. My friend and I got our Bold 9930 (and love them - he came from a phone that dropped dead at mid-day and was frustrated with a couple of other things) with Sprint. Yes, I left ATT for this phone.

Anyway, the Wikitude browser shows him 90 degrees in the wrong place. Any suggestions?
It seems most people's Wikitude is working fine.

Would LOVE to see the ability to see contacts NOT using os7. That would be so usefull to see friends in crowded places.

As a female I find it on the plus side of "creepy" but feel better knowing that you can filter the options to just your own contacts. I have to say my geeky self thinks it's awesome technology.

Question on how it works. Here's the scenario I imagine.

Girl is at the bar, and guy flnds her through Wikitude and adds her on BBM. They have a nice time, and go home. Then the girl turns off public view of her location, but doesn't mind it if her "friends" see her location. Then guy has access to her location from that point on, unless she disables it for all contacts? Then guy turns into a stalker type and knows where to find her?

But what if she likes him, but just doesn't know him well enough to broadcast her location? Hopefully you have the option to individually turn it on or off, but set ppl into groups and decide how much to share that way.

I've used Wikitude since I got my bold 9900 on the day it was released. I've been contacted several times by BBM contacts I do not know who saw me on Wikitude. I must say that it's a gamble to answer because you don't know what the person is really like, and they *can* find your location on a map. I'd like to be able to disable the map location part of it.

You can make yourself invisible. Go into settings on the app and it's the first one. It explains it. Boom, there ya more creepers.

What I would like is an option for a public listing that is between invisible, and giving distance, direction, and location on the map. For example, I'd like an option to be on a public list of BBM users in the same city, but without giving directions and location. That way, if someone contacts you that turns out to be a creep, they can't find your location.

If/when I get a 9930, I will probably limit at first to my contacts, a whopping 7.

I do see the creepy side. To me, it's almost like the BBM connected games. I DLed a Battleships game with chat feature (actually not a BBM connected one), and I very quickly found out the people were using the game to meet/hookup with people. Game quickly deleted.

I think the real scary part of it is people who have wikitude enabled but don't really realize it, and then people could stalk/follow them without their knowing about it.

I know I remember reading that at the initial roll-out wikitude was not baked in to the OS right away, it had to be downloaded/installed. Will that still be the case or does it come with the OS right out of the box now? From a security/safety standpoint, it would probably be best that it requires a download (especially for those that don't know about the thing in the first place).

EDITED TO ADD: Forgot to say.....great post Joe!!!!

I'm on OS version .254 and Wikitude has to be downloaded. You have to go into App World, find it and download it. By baked into the OS do you mean something like Facebook and Twitter? Even with both of those you still have to download them, they just appear on the home screen.

If you block future requests, can the person still see you on the wikitude browser if you have your settings to public? I think you should not show up if you've blocked all future requests from that person; for safety's and privacy's sakes.

Is it just me or does this app affect the battery consumption. After I put it on I couldn't get a full day out of my phone, I deleted it and now have 20-40% when I go to bed.

Anyone have any idea?

Two sides of the coin here.

To me, there's a benefit in these early days. I connected with someone across town last night for the first time and we discussed the battery life of our 9930s (Feels good to step away from the ol' Curve 8310....CYAAAA AT&T!!!).

This technology has to be handled with respect and care. Cross-reference your new contacts in this social age. I'm using this in a Public status now only because these OS7 devices are so new. But as I see more people pop up in this tourist town, I'll begin to change my status.

For now though, be respectable, be cautious...but have fun meeting completely new people as well.

Without name dropping, it was a pleasure meeting you last night talking about battery consumption. =) Have a great day ________ (if you're reading this on your 9930). =)

Does the other device have to have wikitude as well or the one device with wikitude can just see other OS 7 devices?

It certainly is great when u are going to meet your friends in a crowded place but... How about those crazy jealous couples that might tell each other to keep visible when one of them are out with their friends just to have control of where the other person is? What about that nice college friend that seems to be really cool but actually just want to keep track of you 24/7? That old movie Single White Female just flashed my mind... Playing with a cool thing can suddenly become like being in a terror movie if people don't start selecting carefully who to be in touch with, and the most important thing, learning to say no, declining invitations, blocking people at first sign of creepiness in a chat. Maybe and hopefully, with time people will learn how to use it wisely.
BBM integration is fine, but too much integration makes the person look quite needy for attention... And those are the creepiest ones.

When I get an OS7 device i'll make my BBM public. If the person requesting me seems weird I just wont accept the request or delete them after the first conversation :o)

Wikitude is cool! Not many blackberry users around me. Everyone has F'n iphones. As cool as the app is, constant compass tuning is SUPER annoying. Oh yeah, and I don't find it creepy.

Hey Joseph thanks for the great review. i just downloaded and trying it out.
BTW I have the same Motorolla bluetooth/fm transmitter visor clip :)

The only thing this app did for me is drain my battery 2x as fast as normal and prompt me every time I opened it to calibrate the compass.

LOL I agree with you.
When I tested it out for the first time, the person who I made contact with seemed like I have known them all my life. What were we BBMing about? What else .... the new BOLD 9900

So the data that is used in Wikitude Aug Reality - is it streaming data - WAP - or BIS data?

I can only use BIS data as part of my plan, and that means for example, that I get charged very expensive WAP if I were to use UTube on my BB (which I don't).

Ooops if this sounds like a dumbo question ..... but from my perspective it pays to ask.

(I err on the side of it being BIS data, cause of BBMaps, but ..............)

I am getting my new 9850 tomorrow and will be attending a NFL game. A perfect time to try out Witkitude AR? I guess I will find out. :)

As a girl, yes, it could be creepy, but Facebook can be as well if you take a cell phone pic with your GPS on and then post it. IF someone wants to stalk you, they don't need Wikitude AR to do it.

Think of the bright side - parents can track their kids and know where they are and that they safe (just add Wiki AR before they give the kid the phone).

I am getting my new 9850 tomorrow and will be attending a NFL game. A perfect time to try out Witkitude AR? I guess I will find out. :)

As a girl, yes, it could be creepy, but Facebook can be as well if you take a cell phone pic with your GPS on and then post it. IF someone wants to stalk you, they don't need Wikitude AR to do it.

Think of the bright side - parents can track their kids and know where they are and that they safe (just add Wiki AR before they give the kid the phone).

Although I think it's pretty cool... I am especially concerned about the potential for abuse. As a father of 2 young girls, I would definitely be monitoring very closely what they are doing with their phones. All parents should be AWARE of this new technology, but unfortunately the kids are way ahead of the parents. I will give you an example...

WIKITUDE can be used to search for Twitter postings or Flickr photos, for example. You have the ability to add locations now to any photos you upload, or Twitter messages. A lot of teens are enabling the LOCATION settings in their phones and apps. If they tweet from home, or upload a picture or video from home, it will instantly reveal their home address as Wikitude displays it on a map.

Go into any residential suburb, look up Twitter or Flickr posts (for example) on Wikitude and you will see where people live along with a profile picture. Wikitude doesn't give you a time when the tweet was sent, but you just log in to twitter and search for that person's twitter name and it will tell you. So now you know location and time posted and can tell where they are. Most of the TEENAGE GIRLS are tweeting fairly often... mostly boring garbage, but garbage that you would never have known about or have ever randomly found.

But now with Wikitude, the "curious" loner who lives around the corner can scan the neighbourhood, find all the PRETTY TEENAGE GIRLS... and all of a sudden you have the potential of an "electronic stalker" knowing about the teenage girl living in the area, following tweets, knowing where they live and when they are home. And the teens just think it's all innocent fun and games with their friends and social networking, and sharing WAY TOO MUCH about themselves, photos of their summer beach bikini party, and so on.

It is just a matter of time before this turns into a bad news story. Let's just be SMART about it and protect your young children and teenagers who may be a little naive and too open with their personal/social lives. I know I am being PARANOID, but just ask any dad who has daughters.