We've been writing about how amazing augmented reality systems could be for a while, but soon you'll be able to get a proper taster yourself. An app called Layar is due for Android phones this month, and it has several real augmented reality tricks under its belt.
It's been developed in the Netherlands by sprxmobile, and it combines GPS information, a feed from the Android phone's camera, accelerometers and digital compass to create a through-the-camera lens augmented reality view on the phone's screen. Basically the app figures out exactly where you are and in which direction you're looking, and then it presents additional data overlaid on top of the camera's image.
That's a very dry way of saying this is a head-up display for everyday life. Because even the simple offerings included within Layar are likely to prove extremely useful. The app can be configured to display one of several layers of data on the screen--anything from home-buying data to jobs to health care to the nearest bars, ATMs and hotels. In the home-buying mode, it'll tell you if any of the houses on the street you're looking at is for sale along with a bunch of data. And if you're really interested, it'll even connect you directly to the realtor. That's likely to be extremely useful if you're wandering around a city area trying to decide if you'd like to live there. The ATM finder will of course be useful, and a guide to finding the next bar when you're only half-way into a night on the town will also be well received.
The system is essentially a super-smart location-based service interface, and since it makes heavy use of local data, Layar is Netherlands-limited while it uses only its existing group of local data sources. The Android version is out this month, but the developers are also working on an iPhone version, that will make use of the digital compass in the new 3G S.
And that's where it gets interesting. Because the iPhone will sell like hotcakes, and Layar plans on rolling out its service in Germany, the U.K., and the U.S. later this year, picking up local data sources for each location. Pretty impressive, for what the company's calling "the world's first augmented reality browser on mobile". I suspect a whole new smartphone AR-based revolution is about to sweep across us.