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Hijacking the Here and Now

Chris Cameron March 29, 2011

Ignite is a world-wide series of fast-paced talks that focus on just about everything. Cities all around the world wrangle up participants to speak for 5 minutes at a time about a topic they are passionate about, and each gathers a unique group of speakers.

In San Francisco, Ignite speakers tend to be of a techy/geeky persuasion, and this was the status quo Monday at the most recent gathering. You know how we know it was geeky? Layar’s own Gene Becker was one of the speakers, as he spread the good word about augmented reality.

The focus of Gene’s talk was “Hijacking the Here and Now: Adventures in Augmented Reality,” which featured examples of engaging augmented reality content. Here’s how Gene describes the talk in his own words:

“Augmented reality is all about webcam marketing gimmicks and filling the world with geotagged logos, right? Nope, wrong. Instead, we’re learning that the natural mode of expression for AR, is enabling people to *hack time and space*. In 5 minutes, I’ll show you ~20 solid examples of how artists, journalists, historians and citizen activists are using augmented reality to hijack the here and now.”

Videos of the Ignite speeches should be viewable online in a short amount of time, but we thought we’d help give you a head start in case you missed his talk. Embedded below are the slides from Gene’s talk, so have a look and see how augmented reality is helping us hijack our everyday lives.


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Send & Receive AR Gifts with SurpriseME for iPhone

Chris Cameron March 25, 2011

It’s a busy day for iPhone news at Layar today. If you haven’t already, make sure you hit up the AppStore and upgrade to the most recent release of Layar. There’s nothing different, no new features or anything, but this version fixes a few bugs that were occurring due to the release of iOS 4.3 by Apple.

And while you’re in the AppStore, search for an app named SurpriseMe AR - the latest app that makes use of our brand new Layar Player. The Layar Player allows iPhone developers to easily implement augmented reality into their very own iPhone apps by simply copy and pasting a few lines of code.

SurpriseMe AR is an app from Elipse Analysis and Design that lets you give and receive gifts to and from your friends using augmented reality. You can add your friends, pick a gift and place it in virtual space for them to discover. Or perhaps you will be the lucky recipient of an AR gift from them!

The app supports 3D models, photos, audio files and text gifts. You can place the objects like dropping a pin on a map, and your friends see the gifts pop up around them in augmented reality. The application connects to Facebook to help you add friends and manage gifts both on the app and on your personal computer.

To see how it works simply check out the video embedded below after the jump! And don’t forget to upgrade your iPhone to the newest version of Layar!


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Italian Energy Provider Launches 2011 Ad Campaign with Layar

Chris Cameron March 23, 2011

Augmented reality is gaining popularity in the corporate promotion and advertising space, and Layar is a common solution for many companies. One such example which just launched this week is that of Enel, Italy’s largest energy provider, and the second largest in all of Europe.

The company’s vision for 2011 is to inspire “a future built on sustainable well-being” - a dream they say has persisted throughout the years. A TV ad shows a boy in the past tossing a paper airplane into the air and through time as it eventually lands at the feet of a boy in present day.

To help with the campaign, Enel is enhancing their billboard advertisements in airports across Europe with an augmented reality experience built on Layar. The billboards feature a marker which encourages viewers to download Layar and launch the Enel layer for additional information.

You can see the same paper airplane from the ads floating around you, and can click it to watch the video on your phone. Other 3D models include videos and information about electric vehicles and the smart grid.

You can view some of the videos at Enel’s website, and the billboard ads can be found in airports in London, Pairs, Madrid, Barcelona, Frankfurt, Brussels, Bucharest and Moscow.

On your mobile device? Click here to launch the Enel layer now!


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Ricky Gervais: AR is “A Load of Bollocks”

Chris Cameron March 21, 2011

If his performance at the Golden Globes earlier this year said anything about Ricky Gervais, it’s that the comedian doesn’t pull his punches or censor his opinions. Such was also the case on a recent episode of “The Ricky Gervais Show,” an animated HBO series based on the podcast of the same name.

But this time Gervais’ victim wasn’t the low-hanging fruit of Hollywood. Instead, Gervais has let it known that he thinks augmented reality is “a load of bollocks.” Gervais wasn’t pontificating on the latest trends in technology. He was engaged in a lively, comedic discussion with his fellow show stars Stephen Merchant and Karl Pilkington in which the later was discussing his vision for the future.

After pointing out that in the future, the human species will be significantly weaker in strength, pants will be evolutionarily eliminated from existence and all of our food will be consumed in a blended paste form, Karl suggests the idea of augmented reality technology within an everyday pair of bifocals.

“Everything that’s real, you’re not looking at that anymore. This is really the future,” Karl says. “If you’re a young kid and you like the idea of living in the urban ghetto with all the graffiti on the walls, you can see that.”

“What you mean is that the stuff that’s there in the real world is being digitally reimagined in your glasses,” adds Merchant. “So what was a nice country lane is suddenly now an urban ghetto.”

Those familiar with augmented reality can immediately recognize Karl’s vision of the future, and one could say that this technology is not far off. The building blocks of such a future are being placed as we speak. But Gervais wasn’t convinced.

“Absolutely mental. Pointless. Won’t ever work. Absolutely one of the maddest things you’ve ever said,” he retorts. “That’s a load of bollocks.”

Obviously, we disagree with Mr. Gervais, but he’s still entitled to his opinion. Check out this YouTube clip of the discussion of the future (AR shows up at 3:53) or watch the embedded version after the jump and let us know what you think of Gervais’ dismissal of AR.

We’re with you, Karl!


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Dutch “Book Ball” Uses Layar to Help Kick Off Boekenweek

Chris Cameron March 18, 2011

In the age of digital media where smartphones and tablets constantly fill our brains with rich media experiences, it is at times relaxing to escape the information overload with classic technology. Books!

And, boy, do the Dutch know how to show their appreciation for their literature. Starting with the inaugural event in 1932, the Netherlands has hosted Boekenweek, or “Book Week,” each March, with the exception of a few missed years early on. This celebration, which actually lasts 10 days, honors Dutch literature with a wide range of events, including book signings, galas and debates.

Since 1947, the festivities have been kicked off with the Boekenbal, or “Book Ball,” a highly coveted “Who’s Who” event for writers, publishers and famous Dutch people. A tradition among attendees of the Boekenbal is to steal a piece of art at the end of the night, and artists are asked to create works of art specifically for this purpose.

This year, one of the artists asked to contribute was Sander Veenhof, who you know from his augmented reality art projects like the Pentagon/White House Infiltr.AR and the Museum of Modern Art AR Exhibit. Veenhof created a virtual piece of art from the various pieces at the Stadsschouwburg, the venue for the Boekenbal. By using Layar, visitors could see the works and take a virtual piece home with them.

But the most remarkable piece of virtual art on display at the Boekenbal earlier this week was the tribute to the late Harry Mulisch, one of the most famous writers in the Netherlands. For over 50 years, Mulisch was a guest at the Boekenbal, and in recent years would take his place sitting on the staircase of the Stadsschouwburg.

Veenhof brought this memorable sight back to life with augmented reality, allowing the Boekenbal guests to relive their moments with Mulisch. One special guest, the late author’s son, provided an emotional moment as he opened Layar to see his father back in his rightful place on the stairs.


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