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Layar Creation Tools: Series Wrap-Up

Chris Cameron December 20, 2010

Over the last several weeks here on the Layar blog, we profiled three services for generating Layar content, which we call Layar Creation Tools (or LCTs). While other services exist or are in development, we chose to focus on these three - Skaloop, Hoppala Augmentation and BuildAR - because of their availability and accessibility to users of all skill levels.



Each LCT is unique and has its benefits to different users, so we decided to make a matrix that shows which features are available on each LCT. As you can see, Hoppala includes most of the features listed, such as layer actions, 3D objects and custom interaction widgets. Skaloop and BuildAR are simpler LCTs than Hoppala in terms of functionality, but their interface and design is a bit more digestible for more casual users.



If you are interested at all in creating Augmented Reality content on Layar, have a look at the matrix below and see which LCT might be right for you.





As for the services that are in development, keep an eye out for a pair of LCTs which are gearing up to open to public use: VISAR and Poiz. VISAR is a robust engine for creating layers and will likely be comparable to Hoppala in terms of functionality. Poiz is a bit simpler, but seems more detailed than Skaloop or BuildAR with features like the ability to preview the appearance of your layer. Both of these tools are still in the testing phase, but it’s likely that they will be available for public use early next year.



Note: Since this blog was posted, buidAR has since updated its platform significantly, including support for animation, 3D objects and more.

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Students Explore Their City with Expedition Deventer

Chris Cameron December 16, 2010

Yesterday we told you about an interactive scavenger hunt going on in Dublin, Ireland that is using Layar to help players find treasures and win prizes. These types of hunts fit nicely into the realm of Augmented Reality whether the players are searching for digital tokens or for actual educational information.



“Expeditie Deventer” (Expedition Deventer) is an interesting new project that uses Layar to focus on the latter of these two examples - helping people, namely high school students, learn more about the city of Deventer. The game was commissioned by the Public Library Deventer to teach students about the past, present and future of the city and to establish the library as the city’s information center.



The game is played by a group of students split into two teams - one which stays inside at the library and another which roams the streets of Deventer hunting down clues. The students use Layar on their smartphones to complete tasks, earn points, communicate and - most importantly - discover the city in a new way.



3D objects, images and videos can be found in various places throughout the city to help the students solve the questions and assignments. The inside team takes the clues discovered outside and researches them at the library using the Internet or other library resources.



The Expeditie Deventer project was recently awarded the prize for best online education application at the 2010 Dutch Digitaal Erfgoed (Digital Heritage) conference - a testament to the educational value that can be produced through Augmented Reality. Layar is a powerful platform for creating unique educational experiences, and its accessibility on smartphones adds an extra level of appeal to the youth in this case.



To learn more about Expeditie Deventer, check out the project’s homepage, the case study by developers Fabrique and watch the video below!





Layer: Expeditie Deventer
Location: Deventer, The Netherlands
Required: iPhone or Android device
More info: Expeditie Deventer Homepage
Developer: Fabrique

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Scavenger Hunt in Dublin Uses Layar to Dole Out Prizes

Chris Cameron December 15, 2010



One of the things that makes Augmented Reality unique from other mobile and digital technologies is that it is by its very nature inherently interactive. The blending of digital information with the real world makes for truly immersive experiences, and a new promotion in Dublin, Ireland is taking advantage of this in a big way.



For the grand opening of COPĀN, a new café bar modeled in the style of the ancient Mayan civilization of the same name, a week-long mobile scavenger hunt called “Find COPĀN” is being held. Players must use clues to track down the game’s treasures, which can be unlocked using Layar. The first person to find the treasure each day is awarded one of many of the contest’s prizes, which include iPads, laptops, TVs, cameras, and even a vacation in South America.



You can join the fun by visiting the Find COPĀN website on your Android or iPhone where you can sign up or login with your Facebook account. The website tracks your status and lets you access the “Navigator” which launches Layar and opens the “Find COPĀN” layer. Each day, clues regarding the whereabouts of the day’s prize are provided in the app, in a local newspaper and over the air on a local radio station.



Navigate around Dublin using Layar to find tombs, earn points and possibly unlock the treasure chest to win a prize. The game is going on now and lasts only through this weekend, so if you’re in the Dublin area, search for “Find COPĀN” in Layar and join the Augmented Reality scavenger hunt!



Layer: Find COPĀN
Location: Dublin, Ireland
Required: iPhone or Android device
More info: Find COPĀN Homepage
Developer: Syn

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Meet Layar: Klasien van de Zandschulp

Chris Cameron December 14, 2010

We continue our series of blog posts profiling the members of the Layar team with our next interviewee: Klasien van de Zandschulp. Layar has welcomed many new fresh faces to the Amsterdam office in the last several weeks (including yours truly) and Klasien, a new addition to the user research and interaction design team, is already helping to make Layar better and easier to use.



Klasien is a native Dutch gal, and seemingly stereotypical being born on a farm in Ede.



“My parents are farmers so I was born and grew up on their farm among the cows,” she says “I have an older brother, older sister and a little brother, and they are all farmers except for my little brother. We used to walk on wooden shoes - “klompen” - but now they replaced them for plastic ones.”



Her older siblings remain farmers, but Klasien sprung free from her home to study Digital Communication and Multimedia Design in Arnhem. Following school she worked for several years at a publisher creating Websites and eBooks, but then moved on to work at Mediamatic Lab as a project manager and interaction designer.



“My previous job was at a television station where I introduced the utilization of social networks and integrated these free services into the concept for the website I was working on,” says Klasien. “Focusing on using the website alongside the TV channel, I optimized the way a user experiences the website channel streams.”



As if her work experience couldn’t get any more new media, Klasien is now improving the experiences of the users of Layar’s Augmented Reality platform. “My main goal is to create a smile on the face of the end user, and keep it there,” she says.



As for the things that keep a smile on her face, Klasien says her three biggest interests outside of technology are music, music and music. She likes DJ’ing music, going to concerts and festivals and her favorite musician is Andrew Bird (at least according to her Last.fm profile).



Klasien and the user experience team have been conducting interviews and sessions with users to discover ways in which Layar can be improved. If you’d like to participate in the user testing group, email Klasien at klasien@layar.com. You can also get in touch with her via her LinkedIn profile!

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Tracking Satellites Across the Sky

Chris Cameron December 8, 2010

Anyone who has seen the Pixar movie WALL-E remembers the scene as the lovable robot hero escapes Earth by stowing away on the outside of a spaceship. As the ship leaves the planet’s atmosphere, it bursts through an orbiting junkyard of satellites and space junk which encircle the planet.



This is actually not far from reality. You may be surprised to realize that there are actually thousands of satellites orbiting our planet at the moment. If our eyes were sharp enough, we could see dozens of satellites at any point in time, and thanks to a new layer from Italian developers G-maps, now we can.



With the new layer “Sat Tracker,” you can see where satellites are in the sky above you. Holding your phone up to the sky will reveal the locations of the satellites, which are pulled from the United States Strategic Command (USSSTRATCOM) database and updated every 5 minutes.



By tapping on a satellite you can view a wealth of information, including the identification number, country of origin, launch date, launch location and much more. You can also view detailed information from CelesTrak, as well as a map of the satellite’s trajectory over the planet.



The information provided in the layer is presented in a way that will fascinate the more scientific users while still being accessible to casual users. An experience like this truly works best in Augmented Reality. There is a difference between seeing satellites on a map and viewing them above you in the sky. Perhaps on a clear night, you can spot the satellites themselves hovering above us.



Layer: Sat Tracker
Location: Worldwide
Required: iPhone or Android device
More info: Sat Tracker by G-maps
Developer: G-maps

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