Augmented reality officially blows our minds, with Layar leading the way for this amazing mobile technology. Layar Reality Browser 2 has been quietly unleashed in the Android Market, so we hit the streets to try it out.
What does it do?
Layar Reality Browser 2 is a platform, with an API that other services can use to build their own layers, that is, content overlaid on the real world and viewed through the phone's camera. There are over a hundred layers available already, which you can easily browse by featured and popular tabs.
We tried out Brightkite, which displays user-generated content such as photos and notes. There are also various layers tied into Web sites, such as a local area search tied into Google, Wikipedia articles and Twitter. Tweetmondo (pictured) allows you to spot nearby users or tweets posted hereabouts, with one-touch follow and reply options.
We took to the streets of London with an HTC Magic for a quick test. The default is to use your wireless nework to work out your position, or you can use GPS, which requires a view of the sky and will drain your battery quicker.
The local area search is one of the things we're most excited about. We tried looking for -- what else? -- pubs, which pointed us in the direction of several hostelries nearby. Tapping the entry offered the ability to find each boozer on the Web, or even phone them.
Content is still a little flaky, however. The app didn't mention our beloved local, the White Hart, even when we were stood right in front of it. And we'd expect a little more content from Brightkite related to the Tate Modern as we pointed our phone at it, being as how it's a great big tourist attraction and everything. But that will come with time.
App attack verdict
It's the future, seriously. As a platform, Layar will only ever be as good as its third-party content, but from even our quick test we reckon that could be very good indeed. For this Craver, it's the killer app that will make the iPhone 3GS worth buying when Layar hits the iTunes App Store soon.