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Meet Layar: Sanne Walvisch

Chris Cameron November 23, 2010

It’s that time again to get up-close-and-personal with one of Layar’s fabulous employees. This week, we meet interim Web Channel Manager Sanne Walvisch. As her title suggests, Sanne knows her way around the Layar blog, so she’s authored her own profile for this week. So without further ado, take it away Sanne!

Hi! I’m Sanne (aka @SanneW, Sanne Eva Walvisch, ©1978 Amsterdam, the Netherlands). As interim web channel manager I am responsable for all the online marketing activities.

My parents are happily divorced and remarried. That’s why I have 2 full older brothers and 2 half younger ones. The oldest one is 45 while the youngest one just became 18, I’m exactly in the middle! Entrepreneurship and creativity runs through the veins of my family. My mum’s a jewelry designer, my father an architect and 3 of my brothers run their own creative businesses.  I grew up in Heemstede - a small and quiet town 20 km from Amsterdam.

The one thing most funny about my career is that I never finished any study for what I’m currently doing. I used to study social works, but dropped out after 2,5 years. After that I studied fashion design. During my last year I started to work as a web editor at a big Dutch weekly womens magazine. I thought it would be a good way to get myself into working at the fashion department. Big mistake! I loved working on the website and really found my passion: getting people to know new technologies. That is something I really love doing. That was already 8 years ago. After managing several online editorial offices as an online (brand) manager, I started my own business and do that on ad interim base recently. Currently I’m busy at Layar.

Working at Layar is like driving a car in 1932. There’s such an innovative, emerging, revolutionary, buzzing atmosphere at the Layar office! We don’t know for sure where Augmented Reality is going to end up and what we see is just the beginning. The opportunities are endless. That’s an amazing thing to work with.

Layar as an organization is growing rapidly. Processes are being defined and departments are being formed. The flexibility of the organization and the international group of people in the team creates a very pleasant atmosphere to work in.

As Sanne’s title also suggests, she is the temporary interim Web Channel Manager and thus we are looking to fill this position full-time. If it sounds like you might be interested, be sure to check out our vacancies and apply!

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Layar Creation Tools: Hoppala Augmentation

Chris Cameron November 19, 2010

Continuing our series on Layar Creation Tools, we turn to Hoppala Augmentation, a tool that allows non-techies to edit and publish their very own layers on the Layar Reality Browser.

Hoppala is a very powerful “CMS” for creating content on Layar. Instead of playing around within pre-created layers, Hoppala actually helps you through the process of creating a developer account with Layar to manager your own layers. Our very own Ivo van Barneveld took a closer look at Hoppala, and here’s what he had to say…

Hands-On with Hoppala

It’s easy to get started with Hoppala Augmentation. On the Hoppala website there is a video that explains how to create a layer in 4 steps, it’s really helpful and shows clearly how to get started. Unfortunately, there is no other information (documentation, tutorials, etc) available other than this video.

Registration is simple. Once you have logged in, you can easily add your own layers so you can publish your own content in your own layer.

Editing a layer is also simple. By clicking a layer, you open up a page that allows you to drop POIs (or “augments” in Hoppala’s terminology) on a map. You can also enter an address to navigate to a specific location. A disadvantage is that you need to add every POI manually in this way; there is no option to upload a database of POIs.

Once you have placed your POI, you can edit it by clicking on it. A box with 5 tabs appears where you can set the details for the POI. All the attributes that Layar supports seem to be available through Hoppala: 2D or 3D layers, customized actions, customized icons for POIs etc. For the inexperienced user seeing these attrributes might be overwhelming.

It’s good to know that you only have to set a few (as shown in the video) for the POI to show up in your layer. The more advanced user will like the possibility to tweak his/her POIs. There is no further explanation about the attributes, so Hoppala does presume some prior knowledge of Layar. A suggestion for improvement would be to distinguish required and optional fields.

Publishing the POIs is straightforward. Once you have published your layer through Layar’s publishing environment, every POI that you have added through Hoppala will immediately show up in the layer.

To conclude, Hoppala is a very user-friendly tool to create a layer, with a good video tutorial on how to get started. Many options are available for the more advanced user, and the less advanced user will still be able to publish his/her POIs.

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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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