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Google Sky gazes at mobile maps
The Star Droid you are looking for, apparently
Google, in its ongoing quest to provide ubiquitous access to information people never knew they needed, is to launch sky maps for mobile phones under the name "Star Droid".
We've all been in the situation of walking along and suddenly noticing an obscure stellar body, only to suffer an unrequited longing to know its identity. Google Sky will show you what you saw, but Star Droid will, according to Times Online, identify it too.
Star Droid gets a location from the phone's GPS then uses the phone's camera to orientate itself in the sky, augmenting reality by adding labels to the twinkling dots those living outside major cities can see when they look up. The difference between city and countryside skies would seem the major challenge here - the same patch of sky is radically different when one gets away from the bright lights and smog of crowded urban areas.
The data provided will also have to reflect what's visible - there's no point marking the Milky Way to someone in the middle of London, or the dropped ISS toolkit to anyone without a significant telescope.
But Star Droid isn't the first thing to emerge from the chocolate factory without a clear application, and while allowing everyone to spot constellations and planets might upset the geeks who've actually spent the time learning their way around the sky, it might encourage a few more people to take an interest in what's up there. ®