App of the week: Layar

The first commercial augmented reality app to launch on a large scale, Layar is a free application which shows what is around you by displaying real time digital information on top of reality, through the camera of your mobile phone. By just holding your phone in front of you like a camera, you can view key information about your location, be directed towards a local site of interest, or even have historic or imaginary images displayed on top of the camera view.

Layar’s philosophy is to provide the tool, then wait for content providers to queue up to provide you information, alerts, reviews and advertising. All this stuff is added as content layers, almost the equivalent of webpages in normal browsers. Another example is a layer that displays The Beatles on the crossing when you’re at Abbey Road and other famous locations.

Yes, it still needs a bit of work and yes, there’s not a lot of content yet outside of large cities. But there’s such a wow factor in seeing a 3D plane populated with arrows and pointers layered over your live camera image. It brings back memories to me of the reality overlays from Firefox, The Terminator and Robocop.

Maybe I should copyright this idea, but imagine getting a text to alert you there was some kind of prize or nearby, and the first person to get there using Layer could claim it? Or the first 50 people to a store get a discount? Let me know your other suggestions as a comment.

You can download Layar for free from the Android Marketplace or Apple App Store. Your phone needs GPS and a compass.

Originally published at