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When I first got a sat nav in my car I was really happy. It seemed that the world was getting one step closer to being just like Grand Theft Auto: I had a display in the corner of the windscreen that told me exactly where I was and where I was going. What more could I want - other than a vast arsenal of semi-automatic weapons and a dubious moral compass?
Well Layar have come up with the answer to this question. Their app superimposes details of the environment around the user on the image from the camera's phone. This type of system is being referred to as Augmented Reality (AR); a concept which Wikipedia currently describes as being "the combination of real-world and computer-generated data ... where computer graphics objects are blended into real footage in real time." Frankly, until you've seen it in action, this will probably mean nothing to you but having used an experimental app using this technology on the iPhone, I can say that I'm totally convinced by the idea.
Layar's primary focus is real estate but obviously other developers have had an interest in taking advantage of the system. We can expect to see many different layers added showing everything from details of the next bus at the bus stop to which band are playing at the nearest venue. The practical applications are endless. The current Google algorithm focuses highly on location and tries to provide searchers with local services based on user account information and previous searches within the current browsing session as well as IP data. So more than ever, it's important that businesses target their local area so that users with all this information at their finger tips know when they are walking past your door! The importance of getting your business or service listed accurately is obvious.
Just to leave you with a bit of eye candy, check out these videos showing uses of Augmented Reality then go knuckle down on your local listings! In the mean time I'll get back down the serious business of shooting virtual pigeons.