Layar for Android Leads the Way in Augmented Reality Apps

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By: Hillel Fuld

If you have not been paying attention, one of the big buzz words lately has been Augmented Reality. There really is no simple way to explain what it is, but let’s just say it is a “developing technology that overlays or augments reality creating a separate mixed reality” (thank you Sharon Greenfield). Yes, I know you are probably more confused now than you were before. What this technology allows you to do practically is aim your camera phone in a certain direction, and using the phone’s GPS in combination with the Web, display results based on the phone’s view. That means you can define that you want the phone to look in a 5 mile radius for pizza stores, ATMs, people on Twitter, or many other things, and the phone will display the results.


How does it do this? No clue, but the app that enables this technology, or at least the leading app in the AR industry is Layar. It is available in the Android market and some of the Apple App Stores depending on your location (not available in the US store yet). Now, contrary to many apps I review, I am not even going to discuss Layar’s UI, since that is not what makes this app impressive, but I will say that in terms of the user experience, there is room for improvement. Why do I say that? Well, I consider myself a pretty fast learning individual, especially when it comes to mobile apps, and I have used Layar for a long time, and still am not convinced I am using it properly or seeing all the results the way the app can show them to me.


However, since I said I am not going to talk about the UI, let’s talk about the app and its capabilities, which will make you forget about the experience very fast. So what is Layar? What I quickly learned is that a layar is the tool you are configuring in the app based on the results you wish to see. So, for example, you can choose Wikipedia, and when you point the phone in a certain direction, it will display Wikipedia results for anything in the range you have defined. You can change the range, thereby increasing the results.

layar (1)

You can choose a Twitter layar too, which displays tweets in your area, although I found them to be outdated and could not for the life of me figure out how to view who the sender was. For me, the biggest issue was getting Layar to display the picture of the results on the screen, worked sometimes and did not work other times, and I could not figure out why.


Other Layars, and there are tens to choose from, include Local layers, which is specific for your area, Foursquare, Worldpeaks (tells you how high mountain peaks around you are), Tripsay, Flickr, and tons more. The app definitely shows the potential for Augmented Reality, and will definitely impress you with its results. However, and this might just be me ( but I doubt it), Layar is hard to use and is definitely not there yet, in my opinion.  I am most definitely looking forward to the next version, and in the meantime, I am leaving Layar on my Android phone, along with very few other apps that are worth the space in the phone’s storage.

Also, if you want to see what the future holds for Augmented Reality, watch the video below of an Augmented Reality app for the iPhone developed by Orange Israel. This app is called Orange 3D and it is not available to the public. It basically allows you to point your iPhone at a company logo and see a 3D image of the product embedded in the logo. Not only that but you can then play with the 3D image, which in this case is an iPhone, and actually launch apps in this case, as well as rotate the object. The potential for marketing? Endless! Check it out and tell me what you think in the comments.

Our Rating: 3/5

Download Link (iPhone. Android is in the Market)

Developer:  Layar

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3 Discussions on
“Layar for Android Leads the Way in Augmented Reality Apps”
  • It is my opinion that AR is the next logical step in mobile interactive technology after 2D barcodes become commonplace. You will be able to build an AR experience on top of an existing 2D barcode like a QR code for example. You launch your QR code reader to access the content embedded or linked from the QR code or alternately you launch your AR app and interact with what has been programmed for that. The potential to supercharge your marketing collateral is astounding.

  • Thanks for the review. Have you seen what can be done with the latest version of Layar?
    Features like 3D objects, autotriggers and personalized layers make sure that Layar goes way beyond ‘displaying POIs on a camera screen’.

    Re the UI and the content: we are only at the start of a long, long journey. The Layar content creators (over 1500 companies worldwide are now creating layers on our open platform) are finding out how Augmented Reality can work for them and be relevant for their users.
    And we are continuously working on the interface and the capabilities of the platform, including the user interface.
    Much more to come in 2010!