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Layar was one of the first apps to show the potential of augmented reality, and coincidentally, one of the first Android apps that made users stand up and say "Wow!" But four years later the shine has come off of AR, at least for the purposes that the original app served, like mapping and location discovery. So Layar has reinvented itself with a whole new app, look, and website.

Layar's new ad copy says that the company hopes to "help bridge the gap between print and digital." What does that mean, exactly? It means ads. Interesting, cool ads, but still ads. The promotional video features advertising almost exclusively, with somewhat predictable applications like embedded videos on product packaging and quickly linking magazine layouts to online stores. The old Geo Layers feature gets a tiny cameo at the end of the 90-second video.

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This AR system and others like it seem to want to bring Internet advertising into the real world. It's an interesting idea, but does anyone actually want or need that? When you take away the fancy video overlays and LinkedIn profiles, Layar becomes little more than a glorified barcode scanner, and it's not as if people are queuing up to use those in the first place. The updated website is nice, but it still focuses on solutions for advertisers, not users. With exploration and discovery done better in mapping and social apps, I find it hard to think of a reason for regular users to download the new Layar.

Ignoring games and other entertainment or advertising-focused apps, the only truly useful app I've seen that uses AR on smartphones is Word Lens, plus a few other extremely specific tools. That's not to say that augmented reality doesn't have its place - Google Glass and similar systems are just scratching the potential of wider AR applications. But I think we may have reached a point where the utility of AR in combination with a phone camera has been maxed out.

Source: Layar

Jeremiah Rice
Jeremiah is a US-based blogger who bought a Nexus One the day it came out and never looked back. In his spare time he watches Star Trek, cooks eggs, and completely fails to write novels.
  • GraveUypo

    if i see someone reading a newspaper through their phone screen i swear i'm going to go there and punch them in the face

    • http://GPlus.to/Abhisshack Abhisshack

      X-Files: I Want To Believe

  • loyalty888

    If they can get widespread adoption this would be perfect. No advertisers will pay them if they only have 72,000 downloads which probably equates to 20,000-25,000 active users

    • moelsen8

      that's the rating. downloads is 10+ million.

      • Hans Pedersen

        Yeah, considering Layar was pre-installed on most Samsung phones for a long time, I am sure there are a bit more than 72,000 installs in the world. Though I doubt 1/3 of them are actually using the app. I think I've used it twice in 4 years. :)

  • Tim Norris

    The time that this will actually become useful is if it is bought by Google, and integrated into Google Glass.

  • Matthew Fry

    I agree with the AR on the phone thing. Firstly, it looks idiotic. I know some think/thought that Glass would look idiotic but this is much worse. Secondly, the phone is large and holding it out in front of you is awkward.

  • http://profiles.google.com/kamontryst Tyler Walles

    used layar once, a long time ago and never found a use for it, and for some reason it was always preinstalled on my devices

  • http://royblumenthal.com/portfolio royblumenthal

    Massive educational opportunities with this app in this form. QR codes in museums, with AR making the exhibits really interesting. Awesome treasure hunt 'solve the AR clue, and find the next QR code' possibilities. I love it. Hope that sort of thing will be possible.

    • Aaron Jensvold

      I agree, I think AR is going to blow education up. I think it would be incredible to give students an opportunity to virtually assemble the components and processes for things like photosynthesis. Instead of simply trying to wrap your mind around something like that from reading a text book.

      • http://royblumenthal.com/portfolio royblumenthal

        I just wish they'd make it easier to create content. I've been hunting around for ways to do this. And it seems Layar has commercialised itself out of the picture. Wanna do something? Pay! A ridiculous monthly fee.

        All I wanna do is go to a venue, put a QR code next to an item, and enrich that item with interesting AR overlays. So that when a class full of kids comes on their outing, they can scan the code and get interesting stuff.

        Is there any way to do this for free?

        • Aaron Jensvold

          We have a product http://browsar.com/ that lets you do this for free. You don't need a QR code but you would have to include the BrowsAR logo so people would know to download the app to view the content. Let me know if you have any issues: aaron@gravityjack,com

  • http://royblumenthal.com/portfolio royblumenthal

    Layar might end up getting sued by JK Rowling. I saw Hermione reading an interactive AR newspaper article about Ron. Harry was arguing with Snape in the background.

  • Siddhu

    Augmented Reality has a wide array of opportunities for advertisers. It can enhance any print media, giving it digital skin, like videos, 3D objects, pan views, situation based content and where as AR campaigns can be measured very precisely - number of users, number of interactions, links clicked, locations accessed from etc.