I remember when I first saw the Verizon Wireless commercial featuring the Layar Reality Browser. It looked like something out of a science fiction movie. When my student web coordinator came in to the office with her iPhone, I asked her if she had ever heard of “Layar.” She had not heard of it so we downloaded it from the App Store. I was amazed at how the app used the phone’s camera, GPS and Internet access to create a virtual layer of information over the image being displayed by the phone. It was my first experience with an augmented reality application.
It’s nice to know Layar is getting some wider exposure. When I first wrote about it last year, the smartphone market was still somewhat small. And Layar was targeting phones that already had GPS built-in which the Apple iPhone wasn’t quite ready to allow access to in its development tools. Now the iPhone and Droid are willing participants in this burgeoning era of Augmented Reality.
The video in the article is from Droid and does a WAY better job than any of the fanboy websites for the Layar application. Hopefully real world performance is as good as it appears in the video. And I’m pretty sure the software company that makes it has continuously been updating it since it was first on the iPhone a year ago. Given the recent release of the iPhone 4 and it’s performance enhancements, I have a feeling Layar would be a cool, cool app to try out and explore.
As reported in Wired.com for Thursday October 15 , 2009. Layar was originally developed in the Netherlands, and runs on Android based cell phones. The first cell phone manufacturer to pre-install it was Samsung who installed it on their Android based Galaxy sold in the Netherlands.
It has now been ported over to the iPhone and will now compete head to head with an early entrant into the AR market, Bionic Eye. Layar had garnered some early mindshare on O’Reilly’s technology blog Radar where I first noticed it. Others had whispered about it early on the cutting edge tech blogs. But this was the first concrete example showing what it could do.
Wired.com has been singing the praises of the cell phone Augmented Reality craze but somewhat later than O’Reilly tapped into it in early Summer. O’Reilly now has a correspondent fully engaged in covering things AR related: Christine Perey. And now let the battle begin Bionic Eye vs. Layar! But first consider the API’s which are already beginning to be examined by the folks over at Wired. One big complaint is the difficulty with which one can submit their own Point of Interest database that Layar can call up. Bionic Eye hasn’t really touted user generated POI content as much. It will take a while to see if it’s the consumers or the developers who determines the winner in the battle for Cellphone AR apps. Who knows? Maybe Google will enter the fray real soon now.
Layar is in the iPhone App Store!
We have waited a long time but it is finally there! Layar arrived in the App Store. It’s free and available globally. Below some screenshots of the App.
For those following the announcement of the Apple iPhone 3GS and it’s API for Augmented Reality someone has finally put a killer app into the world for all to use. Finallly all the happiness and promise that is Augmented Reality is now availble on the Apple AppStore. The prototype called Nearest Subway is now called Bionic Eye as told by this article in Wired dot Com:
Remember the amazing augmented reality application demo for the iPhone that we saw back in July? It was called Nearest Subway, and it overlaid floating representations of nearby New York subway stations onto the live video coming in through the camera of the iPhone 3GS. These appeared to be hanging in space, pinned in place by the 3GS’ compass and GPS.
That application is now available to buy, for just $1. There have been a few changes – it’s now called Bionic Eye, for instance – but the jaw-dropping virtual signage is still there, and the subway stations have been joined by other points of interest, hotels, fast-food joints and, splendidly, Hooters.
It appears Apple is on board for fully pushing through the whole Augmented Reality capability of the iPhone. Follow the link below:
Apple promises that its upcoming iPhone 3.1 release will be the first to officially support augmented reality apps that support the iPhone 3GS’ camera. Also, a new seed of Mac OS X Snow Leopard has been handed to developers.
I can think of a hundred different pre-cursors to the golden Nirvana of Augmented Reality. Howard Rheingold set the bar pretty high in his catalog of the state of the art called “Virtual Reality”. Everyone from the pre-history of VR to the then present day had their say of what the future should look like. Enter now, the future as it is. Cell Phones! That’s what we got, so that’s what we’re going to use right? Sure enough if you know your own coordinates using the GPS chip in a cell phone and you know the orientation of the camera in that cell phone, you can overlay data one what ‘should be’ in the field of view in that camera viewfinder, right? Well sometimes good is not the enemy of perfect and a company in Amsterdam has created a smartphone app that combines these required features to present a ‘good’ version of augmented reality. As this article in the NYTimes below states it’s called Layar.
Previously in the field of Virtual Reality everyone attempted to provide near perfect reality. Using magnetic trackers from Polhemus to be calibrated up to some kind of goggles or head mounted visual display. At MIT’s Media Lab the project called “Put That There” was originally for commanders in the Navy trying to assess and react to battle conditions on the seas.
The next revision came in the early 1990s at Boeing where they tried using headmounted computer displays. The display with fit over one eye leaving the other eye open to focus on work being done within the fuselage of an airliner being built. The worker could see displayed in realtime information about what they were touching and moving wires and cabling through. Access to information like that without having to stop, look at blueprints, read computer documentation or find spec books would save inordinate amounts of time and prevent mistakes in the routing of wires and cables. Fast forward to today and now you have the ubiquitious cell phone, with camera and GPS chip and a little bit of mathematics and algorithms. A programmer can determine the field of view from the GPS coordinates, get the cell phone’s orientation, map out what should be in the field of view and overlay that information on the LCD viewfinder as you point the cell phone in all directions. It may not be smooth or realtime, but it may be ‘good enough’.
Personally I think GPS should also be paired with a laser range finder so that the field of view can be further refined. That way when you point the camera at a building or a river, you can ascertain the GPS coordinates of the thing at which you are pointing. Once the solution is calculated you look it up in your points of interest database, voila, that’s so and so church, that’s so and so river. That quickly. Some have decried this tendency in usage of navigation devices. Once you fully empower the autonomy and self-sufficiency of a stranger in strange land, you rob him of the benefit of ‘local knowledge’. In that sense Augmented Reality will make us all dumber the more technology enables us to find out own way or learn landmarks without interacting with people. I say to those people I respond with this flip remark: “Bring it on!” If it means being stupid, losing local knowledge, alienating myself from my surrounds then by all means I would rather have that autonomy and self sufficiency wherever I travel. That’s the kind of guy I am.
Augmented reality will “reinvent” many industries, including health care and training, Mr. Inbar predicted. Already, researchers at the Technical University of Munich are looking at ways to display X-ray and ultrasound readings directly on a patient’s body. A research project at BMW is exploring how an augmented-reality view under the hood might help auto mechanics with diagnostic and repair work.