June 17, 2009
Layar – the world’s first augmented reality browser
It’s a nice headline isn’t it? Hats off to the people at SPRX mobile and their Layar application for being the first to open up augmented reality beyond displaying domain specific information on a heads-up display and for becoming an open platform for attaching and consuming real-world location based information. As the names suggests, layar allows you to define location-specific layers of meta-data and to publish these via their API for linking through their Android based mobile browser in the form of digital markers overlayed on real-world locations. As you zoom your phone’s viewfinder across the horizon you see clickable avatars appear on top of things in your viewfinder. With a pending release of an iphone 3Gs version (now that it has the magical compass), we’re seeing our first real glimpse of the next big thing for the mobile, social web.
With layers initially only available for the Netherlands, I’m sure it’s not too long before we see a global expansion.
There has been a clear need for some time to change tack slightly from the current wave of social communication tools (think twitter) and instead of making discussions loosely attached through #hashtags, make them real-world, subject-matter specific instead. Publicising information relevant to real-world places in real-time based upon information from all of the currently available social and other online communications channels adds a more local, personal and tangible dimension. As layar is demonstrating, combining augmented reality with semantic web information (microformats, hashtags etc.) should really deliver a killer mobile service. With the release of the iphone 3Gs, layar will no doubt see some competitors appear on the horizon (and possibly on Android too – wikitude 2.0?) but I think we will end up seeing all of these services evolve to be the location specific equivalent of the twitter timeline with better information classifications and practical filtering tools.
Layar is not yet openly publicising adherence to any standards for their layer (metadata) definitions but I expect if they’re smart (as they appear to be), this will come.
I hope they’ve read my earlier post on the importance of being able to effectively define information relevance for mobile location based services.
SPRX mobile have delivered a much better way to drink from the proverbial social firehose. What a great application. You’ve now seen the future of the mobile web. Rest easy.