Layar rolls out consumer app for augmented reality

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 20, 2011 3:09 PM
Layar rolls out consumer app for augmented reality

By Tarmo Virki, European Technology Correspondent

(Reuters) - Layar, one of the pioneers of mobile augmented reality, rolled out on Tuesday Stiktu, an application allowing smartphone users to combine their digital postings with real images and share them with each other.

Augmented reality (AR), used to deadly effect by the movie character the Terminator, is expected to move into the mainstream over the coming years as chipset vendors incorporate the technology, which enables features like image recognition in smartphones, tablets and PCs.

AR overlays text, graphics and sound on images viewed on smartphone or tablet screens, on PCs or through dedicated glasses.

The boom in smartphones led by Apple Inc's iPhone, which has location capabilities, cameras and sufficient processing power, has enabled people to try out the technology for themselves.

Layar, backed by Intel Capital, has seen its software downloaded to more than 10 million devices but it has not created revenue from providing place-specific data such as upcoming events, directions or other details about a venue.

However, for most consumers it has been too cumbersome to create content themselves.

Layar hopes Stiktu will change that. The app was launched in nine European markets including France, Britain and Germany on Tuesday.

"From the very start we always wanted to give this powerful technology to people so they could use it to their own benefit. With Stiktu we created an app that does exactly that," said Layar co-founder Maarten Lens-FitzGerald. "Now everybody can publish augmented reality content on anything they care about."

Martin Garner, analyst at CCS Insight, said the application would not be very useful for most people initially, but noted it was an interesting and quirky app that could find an audience.

"It could catch on the viral way among limited amount of people," said Garner. "For augmented reality to break into the mass market it would need to be integrated into the chipset and the user interface, rather than being a separate app."

AR is becoming a battleground for mobile chipset firms, with a number of companies - including ARM, Qualcomm, Texas Instruments and ST-Ericsson - working on integrating AR features into chipsets.

Moving AR features to the hardware will make it faster to use and could boost adoption of the technology among consumers as it would be in all devices, without need of additional downloads.

(Reporting By Tarmo Virki in Helsinki, editing by Matthew Lewis)