I've long fantasized about being able to walk down city streets and get information on my phone about area demographics, histories of buildings I see and block-by-block news. A new Android app being talked about today makes that fantasy feel a little closer to reality.
Dutch software firm SPRXmobile will soon release an application for the Android phone that it calls "the world's first Augmented Reality browser." Called Layar, the app is a platform that makes sets of data viewable on top of the viewfinder of your mobile phone as you pan around a city and point at buildings. Real estate, banking and restaurant search companies have already created layers of information available on the platform, which is limited to use in the Netherlands for now. The demo video of the service is quite striking.
The blog NotJustReality quotes Raimo van der Klein, co-founder of SPRXmobil, in saying: "Eventually, the physical and the virtual worlds will become one." That's a nightmarish vision that warrants serious skepticism, but this app for phones sure is cool! The dystopian consequences of having a layer of commercial information placed literally between your eyes and the world around you are nothing to take lightly - but throw in Wikipedia and Outside.in-type layers and we'll likely be happy. In our most recent coverage of the Augmented Reality market we highlighted Wikitude, a Wikipedia layer for Android phones. (How about some iPhone love, already, developers?)
Layar is reminiscent of data layers on Google Earth, Nokia's Point and Find or the excellent Android Sky Map app, which lets users point their phones into the sky and identifies constellations.
Google's Talk Android blog says that Layar will be available in the Android store shortly but there's no word when it will be made available for other countries. Layar says its developers are working hard on building for other platforms, the iPhone in particular.