Can your web browser track your every move?

Your mobile device can use a combination of data from GPS satellites, wifi hotspots and cellphone towers to work out where it “thinks” it is located. A lot of factors can change this, especially if you are indoors. Open this buildAR.com/trackme page on your mobile device to test it for yourself. You'll see this can be very accurate, but in some situations you may find this can be out by over 1km making a possible area that is wider than 2km. It can also take anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes for your device to work out where it really is. Many applications ask the device for it’s best guess and then just use that answer right away leading to a confusing user experience.

Many mobile users don't realise their web browsers can track their location just as well as downloadable apps can. In fact the way location has been handled by Augmented Reality apps have often created quite a bit of confusion for a lot of AR users.

To help you clearly visualise how location tracking really works we've launched this new web based demo that you can try for yourself. Simply open this buildAR.com/trackme page on your mobile device. This demo shows you an interactive map that displays a live view of exactly where your device thinks you are right now, and how accurate this is estimated to be.

Most people are aware their smart devices can track them, but they have no idea how accurate this is or even how they could start to visualise this. One of the outcomes of this demo is that it opens people's eyes to the privacy implications of the modern web. When you try it for yourself you also see how inaccurate this can be and it makes you think about the applications that rely on this location data.

Open this demo and watch how the location and accuracy jumps around in the first 60 seconds as your location is calculated. Then try moving around, going for a walk or even a drive and watch how this changes in different situations. You'll notice that the accuracy varies considerably when you are inside, but that the overall accuracy improves once the location tracking has been running for a while. Then compare this on different devices like your mobile versus your tablet. You'll see that different devices behave quite differently.

Once you've explored how this works you'll realise that many Augmented Reality apps that use this data to show you location based information overlaid on the world around you often don't take this variability into account. A lot of AR apps quickly grab the first location estimate the phone provides so they can load the relevant data as quickly as possible. But this often means the wrong data can be loaded and as soon as it's displayed it then jumps around as the phone makes more and more accurate calculations. This is what leads to the very confusing user experience that many people report.

This opens people's eyes to the privacy implications of the modern web. But when you try it for yourself you also see how inaccurate this can be and it makes you think about how applications rely on this location data.

This demo is part of the awareness building that buildAR is working on through their new "Augmenting the Web" project and it shows that web based location tracking can work just as well as downloadable apps can. In fact the buildAR team will soon be releasing a whole new approach to handling locations within AR that will deliver the best user experience of any AR application available.

buildAR's "Augmenting the Web" project makes it possible to deliver Augmented Reality using standard Web browsers, bringing AR to Billions of Web users on all kinds of Smart & Wearable devices including smartphones, tablets, Google Glass and the Oculus Rift. Please help support this this R&D by backing our project at http://kck.st/1gnUJex

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