It is here, finally for the iPhone. Layar is available and with it a whole series of information packages. There is nothing new on it, but the way it is visualised is new. You get familiar stuff like Wikipedia, Open Street Map, ArchINFORM, Twitter, Panoramio, flickr, Brightkite plus a lot more. There is a high chance that the library will grow dramatically in the next few months. Currently there are a lot of services from Japan as layers available, as well as from the Netherlands. An up to date list of Layar layers can be found HERE.
Layar is basically the browser that visualises the data provided by individual companies offering a specific service. Download the app for your iPhone here.
So lets have a look at how it looks and feels, by testing some services around CASA.
Image by urbanTick - Screenshots, Depending on the angel, Layar adjusts the horizon line of the overlaid plane that serves as a reference for the displayed data.
The reference information is drawn from the GPS / Wi-Fi / Network to establish the current location. The compass built in to the iPhone give the direction of the phone. Layar provides a grid plane to locate the information and presumably give a better sense of depth. The icons used to represent the information are rather simple, a circle, a square, ... The interaction with these objects is limited to select them. It turns out that this is a difficult task at times. One because it is a rather small area of the screen that is available for the actual AR display (the rest is cluttered with backup information) and two because the icons are overlapping one another and are obviously displayed even smaller if they are further away from the present location. However there is a automatic selection that works fine if there are only one or two items on the screen and by moving the iPhone you can alter between them, but as soon as you get more items the sensitivity of the compass can not keep up with the millimeter differences between the items.
Image by urbanTick - Screenshots, Brightkite layer on Layar
The top bar holds a setting button that contains a number of options related to the service. For example the range/distance within results are displayed can be adjusted. The second bar on the top allows to switch between a map, a list and the AR mode, here called reality, WOW! Additional information for each selected item is displayed in the box below. It also provides a link to the displayed contend at its original location on the web. Meaning, Layar is really just a window to search for stuff. In this respect it could increasingly compete with Google and this raises the question why Google has not yet developed their own service or when they will buy Layar?
Well at this point is still a very crude application with a rather cluttered and ugly interface, crappy icons and not very intuitive handling. But you know it is a first stab at a commercial platform to display location based information projected onto reality though the lens of a camera and this is exciting enough.
How beautiful and simple this could look like was shown by acrossair, it was reviewed in an earlier post HERE.
Image by urbanTick - Screenshots, London Tube, not as nice as Nearest Tube, but with additional information that it links to.
Image by urbanTick - Screenshots, Panoramio as the Layar layer, link page and panorama on the web.