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Layar 3 Back To The iPhone – worth the wait?

Submitted by on Wednesday, 3 March 20109 Comments

Layer 3 makes a welcomed return to the iPhone, I was interested to see if the new version would be just a bug fix to fix the crashes or a update with the new 3D features. If you are a Layar fan you may want to go and get yourself a cup of coffee and skip today’s blog.

Firstly, the good news, it is the update with the 3D functionality rather than just a bug fix. There are some nice new 3D layers. Screenshots 3D is a fun layer where you can include a 3D image into a picture, if you have used Junaio then the idea is very similar. The problem is however is you can’t place the 3D object where you want it so you’ll have to arrange your subject around what Layar dictates. You’ll get four instances of the 3D image appear (north, south, east and west) in your compass and it’s up to you to position the subject to those points. I tried to take a picture of  the Sphinx in my garden but the best I could get was the Sphinx hovering 20 feet above a car park. When you do have your subject lined up the next problem is tying to figure out how you take the picture, so far the only way I have found is to take a screenshot which means you’ll get the Layar UI obscuring your picture, probably not what you wanted.

On several tests with the Catch Of The Day layer all the fish appeared clumped together (see screenshot) rather than in separate locations. I also had giant fish appear that were so huge only part of them appeared on the screen.  I’m pretty sure neither of these things were meant to happen.

Leading on to the UI, it’s very inconsistent. There is a 2 degrees icon which sometimes when pressed appears to tilt the screen by a few degrees, other times it doesn’t really do anything.  I can’t really get my head around that feature. There is also (I’m assuming) a hide POI icon which sometimes causes the POIs drop off the screen and hide and other time just drop a few degrees but stay on the screen. I think the idea is to show distance and scale but the idea doesn’t quite work.

I didn’t test all the layers but, Pubs Galore found my local pub which was good, but the UK Post Box Finder which I thought would be useful failed to find anything despite the fact that I can see a post box from my window. I have said before that Layar are doing a great job getting developers to build layers, some of them however will leave you scratching your head as to why. Take Urban Farm for example, load it and you’ll see icons of animals which do not represent the locations of where they can been seen, selecting the icon give you useful information like ‘Cow’, ‘Turkey’ or ‘Chicken’. Layers like that make me question the quality of the other layers, I think when time permits I will look though the list to see what the quality is like for all 370 layers. On the subject of useful, the Tube Stations layer has been extended to show you the live departure board which is really cool. The integration with the live departure board could have been better than just taking you to TFL’s website, but any ray of sunshine will do.

I was surprised that since the previous Layar was pulled from the appstore due to crashes, I suffered 4 random crashes when testing the application this morning, nothing reproducible just click an icon and boom, app gone. Sadly I still have to complain about the fact that Layar still haven’t caught on to the fact that not everyone in uses KMs.

Having written this I feel like I am too negative, perhaps I got out of bed the wrong side this morning, but Layar and Wikitude are like the Microsoft and Apple of the augmented reality browser world and as such everything they do you expect to be ground breaking. I had such high hopes for Layar 3 but I don’t feel that it’s a step forward from the previous version. The 3D functionality is still buggy and the UI confusing.

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It will be it be interesting to hear what you guys think. Love it or hate it?

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  • Howard said:

    Thanks for mentioning our Screenshots Layer – sorry you were having trouble with the fish. I think, judging from the screenshot, you were testing indoors, not good for GPS, possibly you also had some compass interference hence the cluster. As you know location based AR is not suited for indoor use – due to the requirements of GPS fixing. It’s like trying to use a TomTom indoors. Hope it works for you on your next attempt.
    Be interested to know, between Wikitude and Layar, which one you think is Microsoft and which one Apple? :)

  • Jim said:

    It’s a very dull application that is barely usable. Everyone uses it once but beyond that, what’s the point?

  • Paul said:

    I agree with Jim. This post reflects in an excellent way how dull and simply useless these apps are. First time you see it you get impressed but afterwards you end up using a good old map. See how the media is also starting to calm down about this, compared to last year where a new article featuring AR would be written on a weekly basis.

    @Howard: Testing indoors shouldn’t give problems. iPhone uses WLAN positioning which works pretty well in urban areas.

  • howard said:

    @paul a map can not show me The Beatles crossing Abbey Road. Using AR to find local restaurants is an enormous waste of the potential of this technology. Re: the indoor issue – wifi, to quote you, only works “pretty well”. I also mentioned could be a compass interference problem – solved by waving the phone in a figure of eight.
    If, as you say, the media has stopped writing about mobile AR – (a quick look at Google Trends suggests otherwise) I would welcome it.. it would allow the technology can evolve in peace. Maybe you are right and we’re all daft… but I’m guessing you would’ve called the Internet “dull” and “useless” in 1994 too.

  • Layar 3 Back To The iPhone – worth the wait? | Augmented Reality said:

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  • Paul said:

    @howard The Beatles crossing Abbey Road is a nice screenshot… done in carefully prepared conditions. See the capture above, where the Sphinx is floating around and this is what users will mostly get.
    Re: WLAN positioning, it works “pretty well” indeed, as GPS does! So try to explain John Doe that it’s possible that his location is inaccurate and that he also needs to wave his phone in figure of eight in order to get this working…
    Also, take your time and take a proper look at Google Trends and see the “News reference volume” graph. And mind you, even though the Internet had limitations in 1994 -as it has now in some ways- it was pretty useful at least…

  • Howard said:

    @Paul – Ah sorry, we are looking at news volume not search volume. But having checked more carefully for News Articles on “mobile augmented reality” there has been at least 80% of the total number of 2009 articles this year already

    As for explaining to John Doe about GPS/compass interference – there’s an FAQ built into the app. Explains what to do. RTFM as they say.

    The sphinx floats because the models are rendered at the same altitude as the user – and the case of this screenshot – it looks like the user is looking out of a 2-storey window. Again I will say use this outside and you will get the optimum experience. It is not designed for indoor use and anyone reviewing a mobile AR product should at least give it the opportunity to perform well by using it in the conditions it was designed for.

    I am not saying the technology is perfect – but it’s only 9 months old! Already you are nay-saying, deriding and doom-harbouring. Open your mind.

  • Augmented Reality Dating For The iPhone | Augmented Reality said:

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  • said:

    Video review on the new Layar for Iphone:

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