Layar – A Versatile Augmented Reality For iPhone & Android

Simon Slangen 05-03-2010

Layar - A Versatile Augmented Reality For iPhone & Android layarAccording to Wikipedia, our office knowledge sensei, an augmented reality is a term for a live direct or indirect view of a physical real-world environment whose elements are augmented by virtual computer-generated imagery.


Augmented reality is basically just a virtual overlay on the ‘real world’. Remember the robot-vision from Terminator? That’s what Layar does. Only slightly more current, and on your Android and iPhone mobile phones.

Why? Because, let’s face it, after a decade of GUI innovation we’re still not thinking outside of the box (pun intended). It’s time for a revolution.

Although Layar exists for both iPhone and Android, this review was based off an Android phone. Slight differences might occur in the augmented reality iPhone version, albeit minimal.

There’s Something About Layar…

Layar actually works very simply. It takes a streaming image input from your mobile phone’s camera, and adds one, or even a number of layers onto it, also dubbed filters. With these filters, you can look around for the nearest pub with Belgian beer, find interesting art expositions in Chicago, or even look at houses that are for sale. Some features are limited to a specific locale, but with almost 400 layers, there’s bound to be something you can put to use.

augmented reality iPhone


For less confusion, you can toggle off the grid overlay, or even switch to a list or map view of the nearest results. There’s a screenshot of the latter further down the article.

augmented reality iPhone

If you fire up Layar for the first time, you’ll be greeted with the Featured layers tab. Use these to go on a trial run of the interface. Also check out the Local, Popular, and Search tabs. See anything you like? You can ‘favorite’ a layer by pressing the lower left star button for future reference.

Layar Local Search

One of the first, and often most useful filters is Layar’s own local search. You can already find it in the Featured tab by default. The layer does a Google Maps search, and surrounds you with the results on a grid.


augmented reality Android

All you need is a keyword, and a distance. Obviously, in rural areas, you’ll have to set a larger perimeter than if you were downtown in a major city. ‘Pizza’ serves me just fine, but you can try ‘supermarket’, ‘shoe store’, ‘theatre’, and just about anything else that comes to mind.

Layar - A Versatile Augmented Reality For iPhone & Android layar local

The results of your search will be dotted out on your radar, and you can focus on each mark individually by making a pirouette. Layar and Google will show you the establishment name, and distance in meters. If you want more information on a specific result, focus on it and press the big OK button on your cellphone, or just tap the name on the screen. You’ll get the address, phone number and can even plot your route.


augmented reality Android

Your sense of direction drowned out by the results? Hit the Map button to get a cleaner overview. The rest of the interface will remain unchanged. Tap Reality to switch back.

The Twitter ‘Matrix’ & Other Layers

What else can you do with Layar? One of the other popular layers is Tweeps, which gives you Twitter augmentation on your cellphone. Look at some of the latest Tweets close to you. Very strange, but a great tool for party crashers and stalkers.

Layar - A Versatile Augmented Reality For iPhone & Android layar tweeps


As said before, there are now almost 400 different filters available for Layar, and more coming up. The API isn’t hard to find, so you can even make your own. To find interesting new layers, regularly check the Popular and Featured tabs, or take a hit at Search. Try using general tags to turn up most results (e.g. art beats exposition).

Layar - A Versatile Augmented Reality For iPhone & Android layar search

Closing off, a question to take home. Where would you like to see graphical user interfaces heading in the (near) future? Buttons and sliders or augmented reality? Or can they co-exist? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below!

Related topics: Geotagging, Google Maps, Maps.

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  1. dave tribbett
    April 6, 2010 at 4:47 am

    Great post, I referenced it in a post I just completed HERE. One of the most interesting things is the relationship between the Internet of Things and Augmented Reality, they seem to be bound by the same fundamental requirements in both technology and adoption. Thanks for the post.

  2. Ashwin Manoj
    April 1, 2010 at 7:36 am

    Layar has come on the appstore!!

  3. libeco
    March 5, 2010 at 11:19 am

    I don't own an iPhone, I only heard it from somebody working at Google. But I see now on their blog that since March 3, it's back.

  4. libeco
    March 5, 2010 at 9:20 am

    Right now Layar is not available yet for iPhone (it was removed from the appstore due to many bugs), but it will be very soon. Google is also working on a Symbian version for Layar.

    • Simon Slangen
      March 5, 2010 at 10:58 am

      According to the site, Layar made a renewed entrance somewhere last month. Did you check recently?