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HP Labs gives a peek at its location-based interactive software

Mscapes is now in public beta and can be used by developers and consumers to create simple digital overlays to create location-based mobile games or tours.

Hewlett-Packard is giving the public a chance to try out one of the experimental technologies it's cooking up. HP Labs is expected to announce Wednesday the open beta of Mscapes, a suite of software applications that let anyone create interactive location-based games or tours.

The Mscapes online authoring wizard can be used to design digital overlays on a map using photos, videos, graphics, text, or audio. Anyone with a GPS-enabled mobile device running Windows Mobile can use the Mscapes client to play any of the created games as they move through the physical world.

For example, HP Labs partnered with the National Park Service to create a guided tour of Yosemite National Park.

"Fundamentally, all of our mobility announcements are about helping people connect with each other around information that's important to them," said Debra Brackeen, HP Labs' director of strategic initiatives. "All of that connection is happening with richer and richer media experiences." And though Mscapes is not yet a finished product, HP is "putting it out there for the enjoyment of customers and developers."

So far a number of gaming applications have been created--mostly for kids--as have some educational guides and tours. "Part of what we're excited to learn about is to discover the things we haven't thought about," said Brackeen.

HP will publish the spec for Mscapes player client so it can be exported to other mobile platforms in the near future.