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Using Layar to Peer Into the Past

Chris Cameron November 17, 2010

As fans of history, we here at Layar see Augmented Reality as an amazing tool for learning more about the past. Already, layers like the Berlin Wall layer allow people to see history come alive through 3D models.

Another fascinating example of this type of Augmented Reality is in the works as part of a collaboration between Lightning Laboratories’ Gene Becker and Stanford University Knight Fellow Adriano Farano. Becker, who is focused on experience design for blending physical and digital storytelling, and Farano, who is looking to find ways to use AR in journalism, have been experimenting with historical photographs in Layar and Hoppala, a tool for creating Layar content.

By making historical photographs viewable as objects within Layar at the locations where they were taken, viewers can achieve a better grasp on history - and the early tests by Becker and Farano look very intriguing.

The pair chose to use historical photos of Stanford as their first test images - specifically those from before a massive earthquake in 1906. Several parts of the old campus were damaged or destroyed in the earthquake, and the evidence of missing architecture comes alive through Augmented Reality.

In the example above, the square structure on the right of the picture is actually the base of the right leg of the arch in the old photograph. Memorial Arch, as it was known, had to be demolished due to damage it received during the earthquake. In another example, a present-day statue is revealed to be the same as one which plunged through a sidewalk after being knocked from its perch during the quake.

The great thing about historical photographs is that there are millions of them in libraries and archives around the world, and dropping them into Layar is not terribly difficult. With Layar Creation Tools like Hoppala (which we will be profiling later this week), this process is even easier. We are excited to see what else Becker and Farano can create with further experiments!


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Letter From the CEO: Exciting News for Layar

Rhymo November 16, 2010

Today is a big day for Layar. In fact, it may be our biggest yet.

It is with great excitement that we announce that Layar has closed a series B funding round of €10 million. Additionally, we are very proud to welcome Intel Capital as our newest investor.

The last 18 months has been amazing for us. Having the opportunity to build a company that is bringing Augmented Reality into the lives of people all around the world has been a blast. It is truly a dream come true to now be able to continue working on our goal of making Augmented Reality the most exciting and engaging content on any smartphone.

Along with this news, we wanted to take the opportunity to share a bit more about our plans for the Layar platform and what you can expect from us in the coming years. Here are a few questions and answers about where Layar is going in the near future.

What does Layar hope to achieve? We want to bring impactful Augmented Reality content into people’s everyday lives. Let’s have a closer look at some of the words and phrases in this simple sentence.

“Bring” - This means that Layar is handling the transportation of content and connecting publishers and users on as many mobile platforms as possible. Soon, we will launch the Layar Player, an SDK that will bring Augmented Reality content to any iPhone application. But we don’t only want to be facilitators; we also want to help users discover the Layar content that is right for them at the moment they need it.

“Impactful” - We believe that Augmented Reality in its very core is designed to deliver experiences that can truly touch people. Remember the quote from Confucius? “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” Augmented Reality is the closest digital experience to “doing” that there is today. We will continue to invest in capabilities that offer our developers the tools to create the most exciting mobile digital experiences.

“Into people’s everyday lives” - Augmented Reality is in its infancy, much like television was before the growth of massively successful content formats like soaps, live sporting events and reality TV. It’s also comparable to YouTube before we all realized that we love to watch videos of kittens. At Layar we don’t like to assume. We don’t know which formats will be successful in the medium of Augmented Reality. Therefore, we are structuring our platform in such a way that will allow for the successful formats to naturally emerge.

So, what’s next for Layar? The next phase is all about content. In the last year we have built a global platform for Augmented Reality. The coming period is about identifying the content formats that can attract and build an audience. We will not wait passively but will be actively involved in supporting our publishers in this process.

Is Layar packing its bags for Silicon Valley? Yes and no. We really like it in Amsterdam, and we plan to stay here and expand our team here. We will, however, be opening a U.S. office in San Francisco soon. If you are interested in joining the Layar family in the Bay Area, here are a few of our American openings.

What are the key projects you are focusing on right now? With our previous funding round we grew to 25-30 people. This was still manageable with a relatively small management team. Now that we are passing 40 people we are investing in structuring and strengthening the management team and building a project organization focused on throughput. We are also focusing on building a team and process around user research and analytics into the Layar organization.

Will Layar implement Computer Vision? Yes. Computer Vision is necessary to deliver truly awesome visual experiences. One of the first implementations will be Image Recognition capabilities within a layer.

What are the first things Layar has done with the money? We have hired some great people: Chris, Sunitha, Ivo and Klasien. If you want to know what they do at Layar, just keep reading our blog. Chris, our new Web Producer, is authoring a nice blog series profiling members of the Layar team. You can see the first few entries in the series about team members Pambos and Olivier on the official Layar blog right now.

On what will you spend most of the money? On the salaries of the amazing people which are part of the Layar family. We are growing fast!

We stand at the beginning of our most exciting period yet and we hope you join us for the ride!

Raimo van der Klein, Layar CEO


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Meet Layar: Olivier Slabbers

Chris Cameron November 15, 2010

Last week we kicked off a new series here on the Layar blog profiling members of the Layar team. This week’s victim interviewee is Olivier Slabbers, the Lead Designer here at Layar. Basically, Olivier is in charge of making sure everything involving Layar exudes a positive and pleasing aesthetic.

Olivier is a local-grown boy (relatively speaking): born in Amsterdam, raised 25 miles to the north-east in Lelystad and a current resident of Haarlem, just to the west of Amsterdam. “Olivier” is actually his middle name, his first being Albert, which is in honor of his great grandfather. His parents live part-time in France and his older brother who is married and living in Philadelphia. Oliver and his wife Sanne (a fellow Layar employee you will read about on the blog soon) have a daughter who just turned one this week.

Here’s my Q&A with Olivier!

Describe a typical day at Layar for you.

Olivier: My typical day starts somewhere around 9:30 with a big cup of coffee from the espresso bar downstairs. I’m somewhat chaotic and distracted quickly so the first thing I do is check what I have planned to do for the day. What keeps me busy most of the day is breaking my head over new features, navigation in Layar and trying to make it look more aesthetically pleasing.

What’s your favorite part of working for Layar? What has surprised you?

Olivier: Before starting at Layar I worked at an advertising agency where I worked on campaigns. At Layar I learned there is much more room for improvement when there is no pressure from a client and you know that you really are building something to last. Something that I immediately noticed is that everybody at Layar knows so well what they are doing. It’s just great to find so much knowledge and expertise in one place.

What are your interests outside of Layar and technology?

Olivier: I used to be a very fanatic competitive cyclist and ice speed skater, but since my daughter was born a year ago I haven’t ridden a millimeter. Last summer I did take kite surfing lessons and it turned out to be something I really like doing. I also used to be a heavy metal fan with a matching ‘do during my high school days.

What is something people may not know about you?

Olivier: I developed design skills while running the bicycle store where I started working as a mechanic.

If you would like to work alongside Olivier and the design team, Layar is currently looking to fill a Senior Interaction Designer position!


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Layar Creation Tools: Skaloop

Chris Cameron November 12, 2010

As we mentioned last week, November is the month of LCTs (Layar Creation Tools) and how better kick off the series than with a newcomer to the market of tools: Skaloop.

Skaloop is a lovely web interface designed by Spanish developers Signo. The service allows anyone to quickly add points-of-interest (POIs) to a map with metadata like names, photos, tags, categories, descriptions, links, comments and even ratings with thumbs up and down. The interface is very user friendly as it is built on top of a full-screen Google Map.

Enrollment for users is not currently open on the website, but to create an account you can request one at One you have an account, logging in allows you to create public and private POIs, and save curated lists of these spots. You can also comment and submit correction for public POIs submitted by others. If you create a private POI, only you will be able to view it on Skaloop.

To view POIs in AR view, simply launch the Layar Reality Browser and search for the “Skaloop” layer. The layer will find public POIs in your area, and if you log in with your credentials within the layer your private POIs become viewable. Clicking on a POI pulls up a menu where you can get directions to the spot, view the website linked with the POI, and view additional information like the description, photo, tags and comments. You cannot, however, comment on or rate the POI from within Layar.

Skaloop is very basic and very simple, and makes it very easy for the less tech-savvy user to get POIs online and in Layar. That said, there are many features some might be missing in Skaloop. There are no 3D objects, no custom interaction widgets, and no personal layers - but entry-level AR users may not feel they need some of these more advanced functions.

There are a few bugs with Skaloop, mainly with the uploading and viewing of images, but it does not take away from the usefulness of the tool. In the near future, Skaloop hopes to allow users to upload not only multiple images per POI, but also other media like video and audio.

Want a clean, simple interface to upload your favorite local spots and view them instantly in AR? Skaloop may be the LCT you’ve been looking for! To see it in action, check out this video.


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Can You Solve the AR Geo Mysterie?

Chris Cameron November 11, 2010

As some of you may know, last week we hosted Augmented Reality Thursday, or ART. On the first Thursday of each month we will be hosting a fun AR mixer event with food, drinks, people and - most importantly - augmented reality!

To kick off the very first ART, we invited students from the Utrecht School of the Arts (HKU) to present an augmented reality project they are developing for the Living GeoLab. The lab is part of GeoFort, a fortress-like island created by the New Dutch Waterline, and the students were tasked with creating AR experiences as part of an educational attraction.

Presenters Douwe de Witt and Rick van Ginkel (two members of a seven person team) walked the crowd at ART through their project, Geo Mysterie. The game challenges young visitors to the GeoFort to solve a mystery using augmented reality as their detective’s magnifying glass.

“Geo Mysterie is an AR scavenger hunt around the story of Jay Indeed, the Professor and the Mighty Tornados,” says de Witt. “Our goal with this game is to take children on an epic journy where they discover the Professor’s true identity and will have to save the world.”

Using smartphones, players will be able to follow hidden footprints on floors and scan for invisible objects in various scenes of the mystery. Other aspects of the game involve hunting for tornados in AR, extinguishing virtual fires with virtual hoses and investigating debris using quick response (QR) codes.

ART attendees were intrigued by the concept, which has been selected by the GeoFort to be realized in the next several weeks. To learn more about the team’s project and concepts, visit their team homepage!

To see photos from ART, check out the official Layar Flickr page!


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