Layar - is this real life? Is this just fantasy?
Real life, eh? It's alright, but there's something missing. For some of us, it's love and cheap hookers. For others, it's wealth and a sense of security. That's where augmented reality steps in. These mobile applications look at the real world through the camera of your smartphone, then display the image with a overlay of details, images and directions. It's Reality 2.0, but only if you're a new media marketing wanker that thinks up phrases like that.
These have been in development for several months since the onslaught of the iTunes App Store, but the first big player to launch is in Holland for the G1 Handset. It's called Layar and it looks not unlike this:
Unfortunately the results you see in the augmented reality appear to be sponsor-led, with Layar securing deals with local companies for their content to appear. That presumably means there are huge gaps in the type and breadth of information available, until further companies pay up at least. What would make the app invaluable work is a version that has both general sightseeing information with information scraped from a database likes Travelwiki and the ability to view a Yellow Pages of nearby businesses and details. Then the app would be useful even when you're not looking for a house to buy or an ATM.
A UK version launches later in the year, and an iPhone app for the 3GS is also on the cards.