Layar, the augmented reality browser, is stepping up its efforts to bring sci-fi-like AR to the world: It's just introduced in-app shopping. Yes, that's the world's first augmented reality store, and it implies all sorts of astonishing potential for all sorts of people--from world travelers to Disney vacationers.
Layar, explaining the new system in a blog posting, makes pretty light of the matter: "Publishers on the Layar platform now have the possibility to offer priced Augmented Reality experiences on multiple mobile platforms such as iPhone and Android." Essentially, this is a simple reference to the new API hooks in Layar's code that let developers connect to online payment schemes--Layar will support "mulitple payment providers and multiple currencies" and actually handles all the legal and tax side of the deal (a little like Apple's App Store model) so that publishers can "focus on their core activities" which is producing neat AR content. As a result, publishers keep 60% of the proceeds, and Layar gets 40% to cover the admin and a profit margin.
The first payment partner is a big one, too: PayPal. At first it'll only work in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., and Australia, but Layar expects the system to quickly take off.
But what exactly will this do to your Layar experience? One good example is one of the first paid content publishing partners, Berlitz. The idea is that if you find yourself vacationing in a new place, you'd fire up Layar, pull up the Berlitz layer and pay for data for your location...then wander around, making the most of the navigation/location-based technology Layar offers up, and learning from Berlitz where to eat, shop, or see the sights. There's a similar system, called Mouse Reality, which helps you find your way around in Disneyland and Disney World.
The potential is far greater than this, though--paid-for layers is just the start. Since all the payment hooks are built into Layar itself, all sorts of novel uses can be dreamed up. It probably won't be long until someone dreams up a virtual reality store, for example, where you're walking around in a physical store location, spot a product you like, dial up the AR system, buy it virtually, and arrange for it to be delivered to your home. And that's just the most obvious use, and as we've learned from the Apple App Store, all sorts of previously unimagined uses will be dreamed up by Layar layer-writers. There's also the upshot that now that writers can easily monetize their efforts at producing content for Layar, more, and more sophisticated, layers will become available--a big boon for AR fans.