Ina Fried

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Qualcomm Bringing Augmented Reality Software Kit to the iPhone

Although its chips don’t power the iPhone, Qualcomm has decided to bring its augmented reality software kit to Apple’s phones in an effort to make it more attractive to developers.

Qualcomm released free software tools for Android last year in an effort to get more developers to write processor-hungry apps that combine the virtual realm with the physical one. Starting in July, though, developers will also be able to use Qualcomm tools to write augmented reality apps for the iPhone.

“We realize it is a complex ecosystem with multiple operating systems,” Qualcomm’s Jay Wright said in an interview at the ARE 2011 conference on Wednesday. “Developers need tools and technology that address that challenge.”

It’s an interesting move for Qualcomm, which plans to release the iOS tools for free through an Austrian subsidiary. Wright acknowledged that Android was a more logical operating system, given the fact that its chips are used there.

“Android was a logical starting point because of developer momentum and Snapdragon penetration,” Wright said. “Moving forward we will support additional operating systems.”

In any case, the move thrilled some of the developers that have been writing code using the Qualcomm tools.

“Its fantastic for us because it opens up a market,” said Morgan Jaffit, whose app, Inch High Stunt Guy, allows users to position various ramps and other objects on their screen in an effort to propel a stunt motorcycle rider to make it through a flaming hoop.

With the move, Jaffit and his Australian colleagues now hope to release both the iPhone and Android apps in the coming months.

Also pleased is Paulius Liekis, co-founder of Pixel Punch, the Lithuanian developer of Paparazzi, another augmented reality game built using Qualcomm’s tools. The app was released a week ago for $1 in the Android Market, but he sees the monetization policies as much better on the iPhone, where users are more willing to pay for content.

“They appreciate good content,” he said of those with an iPhone. “On Android, consumers are different. They do not want to pay.”

Paparazzi was the winner of a developer challenge Qualcomm funded last year, earning $125,000 for Pixel Punch, while Inch High Stunt Guy finished second, earning $50,000 for Jaffit’s company, Defiant Development.

The student team from USC that finished third in the contest said they, too, are looking forward to being able to bring their game–Danger Copter–to the iPhone as well as Android.

“Definitely it motivates us so much more to finish it up,” said Kedar Reddy, one of the USC graduate students.

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