Consider reality – the world around you – automatically augmented by real-time information as you walk down the street or sit on a subway. It used to be the stuff of science fiction, conjured up alongside future visions of flying cars and teleportation. Well, the future, or at least an early version of it, is here and making its way to your smartphone.
In the coming months, a flurry of so-called ‘augmented reality’ applications are expected to hit the Android Market and iPhone App Store, with a number already available. Meet Layar, an Android-based application that uses your handset’s GPS location, digital compass and accelerometer to call up geotagged information and superimpose it on the world around you.
The software uses a live feed from a device’s on-board camera, and overlays 3D graphics that offer further information about current surroundings appearing on the viewfinder. Originally limited to the Netherlands, Amsterdam-based SPRXMobile has opened its software up to developers, allowing them to create ‘layers’ that provide users with additional locales and information.
The layers are stacking up, with new additions ranging from a Yelp layer that lets you see restaurants in your area (and click for reviews, of course) to a Tweetmondo layer that overlays nearby Tweets. Other U.S. companies are offering layers that allow users to look for nearby real estate listings and access real-time bus schedules. Layar's original demo [at right] highlights such an application.
Layar is scheduled to be available for the iPhone 3GS in the near future, but competition in the augmented reality space is already heating up. British company Acrossair recently launched a series of augmented reality applications aimed at guiding you toward the nearest subway stop or coffee shop.
Augmented reality undoubtedly still has a ways to go to truly enter the realm of what was previously reserved for the imaginations of science fiction writers, but a large step toward the future is available now for download to your smartphone.
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