Amsterdam-based mobile augmented reality developers Layar are announcing today the launch a new service that will make it easy for users to discover the most popular local AR content from their iPhones or Android devices. Layar, a mobile AR browser that serves 1.2 million augmented objects each day, will now include a feature called Layar Stream which will make finding the best needles in the augmented haystack much simpler.

Using a proprietary algorithm, Layar Stream determines the most used AR content in a given geographic location and creates a list through which users can easily browse. Once users select a place of interest, they can then hold their phones up and see where it is located in 3D space around them. While generating a "top content" list is hardly a breakthrough of technology, Layar believes it may fundamentally change the way people use their application.

Layar CEO Raimo van der Klein says Layar Stream, which the company calls an "augmented reality content discovery engine," is the "necessary building block to make Augmented Reality part of every day life. There is a whole augmented world out there that needs to be discovered."

I had the opportunity to chat briefly with van der Klein Thursday via email about Layar Stream and the future of augmented reality in general. The following are some of the key questions and answers that emerged from our conversation.

ReadWriteWeb: How do you think this will affect the way developers create AR content on the Layar platform?

van der Klein: On the short term I don't expect any change on the content creation side. I do expect that developers will start to understand our algorithm and know how to get a higher ranking in Layar Stream. Something like Stream Engine Optimization. The biggest impact for publishers on our platform is that it will drive traffic to their layers.

ReadWriteWeb: Do you think AR is still too new to most people where the awkwardness of holding your phone up is a hurdle these applications have to overcome?

van der Klein: Augmented reality is a great interface to "consume" experiences that have a relation with the physical world. It is not the best way to understand or browse through large quantities of data. Therefore we chose to focus in the discovery phase on a list interface and handover to Augmented Reality when you have found something of your interest. I guess you can compare it with a TV guide (paper) as a way to find the TV programs you would like to watch.

"People want to use the web to express themselves and connect to others. We now call this Social Media. We foresee that people will also use Augmented Reality for social purposes."
- Raimo van der Klein
ReadWriteWeb: Are there any plans to let companies pay to promote their data in the stream?

van der Klein: Layar Stream is a great place of "screen real-estate" where we can offer our publishers a way to promote their layers. The coming months we will try out various solutions in specific test markets to find out how we can add these messages in a way that it actually makes sense for the user and the publisher.

ReadWriteWeb: You mention wanting to make AR more a part of everyday life. Are there any other ways Layar is trying to tackle this issue?

van der Klein: A crucial part are experiences that only work in Augmented Reality. Experiences that can not be ported to a map or a website. A great example is the Berlin Wall layer. Visitors of Berlin can now see the wall on the same spot where it used to be. The impact of such an experience cannot be transferred to a map. It is these kinds of experiences that validate this medium. Further we have learned from the web that people want to use the web to express themselves and connect to others. We now call this Social Media. We foresee that people will also use Augmented Reality for social purposes.

Layar has announced plans to expand beyond Android and iPhone onto Symbian devices in the near future. They are also currently in talks with handset manufacturers to bring their AR browser to other mobile platforms. Over 1.6 million people are already using Layar, and a community of 3,000 developers has created over 500 layers with reportedly 2,000 more currently in development.

The company also recently launched their AR content marketplace that allows developers to charge users a one-time fee to browse their content.