There’s something very appealing (especially if you’re a tech geek) about the idea of augmented reality. Being able to see the invisible meta data in the physical real world around you feels like something from a sci-fi novel, and with the help of an Android (Android) application which just reached version 2.0, Layar, it’s now a reality.
Layar is a Reality Browser, which means it displays real time digital meta data on top of the physical world around you, as seen through the camera of your mobile phone. Point the camera anywhere, and you’ll see layers of information on top of real world objects; these layers can be real estate info, bars and shops, tourist information, tweets from users etc. Imagine sitting in an internet cafe and seeing what the folks around you are tweeting through you camera? Well, that’s exactly how it works.
Besides looking through the camera of your phone, you can also select map view, which then looks a lot like a regular GPS application. You can see points of interest (POI), and each one can be linked to video, sound clip, or a mobile site for more information; you can also play live location based trivia games, check route description to the POI and more.
With version 2.0, Layar has given access to its API to 500 more developers, which are currently developing more content layers. Having Twitter or Wikipedia (Wikipedia) info layers on your phone is nice, but Layar is going to need support from many more developers if the application is to become really useful. Current partners also include Brightkite (Brightkite), Yelp (Yelp), and Trulia.
As of now, Layar is available as a free Android application anywhere in the world, while support for other platforms, including the iPhone 3GS, is coming later. Check out a couple of funny introductory videos below.