Love it or hate it, augmented reality is probably here to stay — and we've got Claire Boonstra to thank. She's one of the cofounders of Layar, an augmented reality platform that is largely responsible for the considerable amount of buzz around AR in the last two years or so. Trained in civil engineering, Boonstra comes from a technical family and originally wanted to be a designer (she says in an interview that she wanted at one point to make the "Boonstra Bridge"). But when the world of architecture didn't quite click, she veered into tech, starting at i-mode, an early precursor to cell phone Internet browsing.
But it was a conversation with some fellow techies at the Mobile Monday Amsterdam Event, that the idea for Layar was sparked. A pioneer of augmented reality apps, Layar is also an open platform, allowing developers to create their own "layers" that can be overlaid on top. Here's her take on the choice of an open platform:
Before we launched, we had a plan to start in the Netherlands and gradually launch in other countries. But we immediately realized that this would not be a sustainable business model because we are a small company and would like to keep it that way. So we decided to open up our platform by means of an API so that everybody can develop their own layers.
We're creative but the world around us is much more creative than we are. So many really cool layers are now being developed by people all over the world who we previously could never have contacted.
In the short time since its launch, everything from In-N-Out Burger to Seattle's transit system has embraced AR. And while it may be a new technology, it's one of the most exciting implementations of ubiquitous smartphones we've seen so far — and it all comes back to Claire Boonstra and the Layar team. —Dan Nosowitz