Augmented reality – Layar emerging as a successful platform

By June 30, 2010 3 Comments

I’ve been interested in augmented reality for a while, I had Layar’s old app on my iPhone before they pulled it from the App Store for being too buggy, and then in February I blogged about their VC round (and an interesting person recogniser app), so when I saw on Techmeme this morning that The Rolling Stones are running a marketing campaign based on Layar I clicked straight through to find out more.

And the news turned out to be pretty interesting on a couple of levels.

Firstly the Rolling Stones campaign is pretty clever.  It is a promotional tool for their recently re-released album Exile On Your Street:

Using their phones, people with the app will be able to ‘stick’ virtual posters to the places they pass. Attached to the posters they can add a comment, one of 28 tracks from the double album and a short video clip of the band. Friends or passers-by with the app will be able to look through their phone screens and see all the posters left by other users within a 2km radius. They can then listen to the tracks stuck to the posters, watch the video, comment on other people’s posters and leave their own.

It is very early days for augmented reality marketing campaigns and at this stage brands will benefit as much from pundits talking about what they are doing (as I am) as they will from people actually using the app, but there are some nice aspects to what they are doing.  Firstly the idea of leaving posters taps into fans desire to publicly associate themselves with the band, and secondly because songs and comments are tied to each poster there is the potential for some viral spread.  That said, you have to be using the Layar app which is only available on the iPhone and Android, and you also have to have the Rolling Stones layer open which limits the audience size somewhat.  Playing with the app from my hotel room here in San Francisco I think I could see four posters that had been left (if that is the right term) in the nearby area.

Secondly, and probably more importantly, Layar is starting to emerge as a successful platform.  I say that because there are now lots of users and lots of developers creating lots of content that runs within their augmented reality browser (from Stuart Dredge on Mobile Ent):

Augmented reality startup Layar has an active user base of more than 716,000 people, with 1.6 million having used its app at least once in the last six months …. Layar says it now has more than 1,000 published layers for its app from developers, with 3,000 more in testing. Its platform has 4,000 active developers

That is a pretty decent level of activity for a startup that is just one year old and which operates in a novel and unproven area, and playing around with the app you can see why people are interested.  I’ve just been having fun with the TweetPhoto layer which shows photos posted to Twitter near where I am, and the Foursquare layer which you can use to quickly scan nearby places to see who has checked in.