Ina Fried

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Viewdle Ready With Social Camera, an Android App That Never Forgets a Face

Viewdle still has big dreams when it comes to the potential for augmented reality. However, the company is opting to start small with its first app.

Dubbed Social Camera, the Android app aims to do one key thing: help users automatically tag their Facebook friends in photos taken with their cell phone cameras. Users have to identify a friend the first time, but after that, the app can detect them automatically, similar to what Apple offers in its Faces feature in iPhoto.

That’s a far cry from the broader vision Viewdle has been touting in a video on its Web site–one in which people in a video are identified and their social network status displayed above their heads. Though that is moving from science fiction toward reality, Viewdle CEO Laurent Gil said he decided to shift his team’s effort toward something less ambitious.

“Let’s do something that is non-intrusive, something that is very similar to the usual case of taking pictures,” Gil said.

Once users have tagged their friends, they can then share that photo on Facebook, or send it via email or MMS. Viewdle’s app, being launched in beta form on Wednesday, requires at least version 2.0 of Android along with a processor running at 1GHz or faster. Among the phones it works on, Viewdle says, are the HTC Desire and Desire HD, as well as the Nexus S and Nexus One.

Though a big believer in the power of augmented reality, Gil has also been outspoken in trying to get the industry to stop hyping itself and start delivering tools that people can use today.

As for the decision to work with photos rather than video, Gil said that doing video is technically possible, but not as natural for consumers.

“To show something real-time on video would break the consumer habit,” he said. “What we thought is, let’s do something that fits well with what people do now. Let’s add things when we feel the user is ready.”

Viewdle – Photo and Video Face Tagging from Viewdle on Vimeo.