Augmented Reality Gets New Dimension: Layar Adds 3-D

We’ve covered Augmented Reality app Layar a lot as it’s one of the most promising examples of the technology out there–and it’s getting even neater: Layar’s adding 3-D to its AR world modeling system.

That sounds confusing, but it’s quite simple in the end. AR means augmenting reality with extra (or “meta”) information–typically as a suite of text or graphical tags superposed on a real-world view taken through the camera of a location-aware smarphone. To date these tags have tended to appear as simple two-dimensional labels that track with their real-world equivalent positions as one rotates a smartphone around (as with the sweet Paris Metro AR iPhone app).

But the Layar team realized this wasn’t enough, and they’ve just taken Layar into the third dimension. Using some clever positional and graphical coding, those AR metatags can now appear in 3-D as if they were actually embedded in the real three-dimensional physical world imaged by a smartphone. Check out two simple if compelling examples below: A 3-D Pac-man game and 3-D tagged venue names (for the latter we wonder–has the Layar team been watching too much Fringe?)

For the time being the code, which works through OpenGL, is limited to 1,000 polygons per 3-D object, simply due to the limited process capabilities of the average smartphone. It’ll only slightly impact existing Layar developer’s plans too–and the company plans to help developers ensure their software works on the new 3-D grid system.

Despite these initial limitations, Layar’s just officially made its AR browser into something awesome–a genuine taster of the fully-immersive 3D AR apps we’ll all be using in the future.