Augmented Reality — There’s an App, er Platform, for That


This summer I got my first taste of augmented reality on a smartphone and found it a little bland. Part of the reason is because I live in the country, where cows, deer and even bison can be found. I have yet to find an AR app that shows me where the nearest herd is and what they’ve tweeted or tooted. Usually, my not-so-technical nose can detect the toots, so there’s no need for any mobile tech in that area. Although my locale isn’t yet the best to test AR apps, I’m hitting up the iTunes App Store this morning to grab Layar, which just arrived.

Unlike Yelp’s augmented reality “easter egg” add on — the Monocle is now a standard feature on the iPhone — Layar’s entire core revolves around augmented reality. The app is essentially an AR platform to superimpose local data from various sources in a visual view of your world:

On top of the camera image (displaying reality) Layar adds content layers. Layers are the equivalent of webpages in normal browsers. Just like there are thousands of web sites there will be thousands of layers.” (emphasis mine)

By creating a platform capable of a nearly limitless number of data layers, Layar took the opposite approach I’m seeing from other AR challengers. Instead of building a local data repository first and then adding AR, Layar built the AR platform first so that data repositories could easily be added. It’s a subtle, but very powerful difference and although this market is in its infancy, I think it might give Layar a competitive advantage over other contenders. Now, where did those bison wander off to?


kevin white

I remember when I installed a copy of Arcade Reality on my Treo 650 and went OMFG!!!11.

I’m not sure how augmented reality will play out on phones. However, I’m waiting for heads-up displays in cars that project an as-u-drive nav map on reality. That would be especially good for night driving, one of my least-favorite activities.


Not to sound too short-sighted or anything, but does this whole concept seem more like a gimmick than anything else? I know it’s a concept that is still in a stage of infancy and everything, but the UI, the very point of the softwares existence, has never really come of that well. I have used three AR apps, Layar, Yelp, and Wikitude, on three different phones, the G1, IPhone 3Gs, and the Hero respectively. I have found that the compass is inaccurate on all three, and the interface leaves much to be desired. Maybe its just I’m so used to google maps and places directories.

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