Mobile

Layar lands another $14M to turn augmented reality into a discovery tool

Layar today announced it has landed another $14 million in its second round of fundraising from Intel Capital to help make it easier to discover new places, like shops and restaurants, through its augmented reality interface.

Augmented reality essentially uses location-based technology to superimpose images and content on top of a smartphone camera’s viewfinder. The overlaid information can include a Yelp review or details about a landmark. Users simply point their camera somewhere and click a link on their phone to access the content.

It’s very cool technology that can turn your camera into a heads-up display for real life. Augmented reality — though a few years old — is still a nascent field, and most companies haven’t quite figured out how to monetize it yet.

Layar was one of the earliest companies to venture into augmented reality. It’s available on Google’s Android mobile operating system, as well as the iPhone operating system iOS. Layar announced plans to launch on Symbian, the operating system that powers most phones manufactured by Nokia, last year. Yelp and Urbanspoon, two other apps that help discover new restaurants, also have some form of augmented reality built-in.

Unlike Yelp and Urbanspoon, Layar is more like a springboard that brings in developers to figure out just what to do with the technology. Layar launched a store for special layers of information and graphics that you can superimpose on the world around you through your cell phone. Publishers can create and sell special augmented reality layers that tag places with information like real estate listings or restaurants. So far, the company has launched about 1,500 of these layers.

The funding will help solve a major question that’s bugged a number of augmented reality naysayers for some time — why would someone actually use the app, outside of the novelty factor? To date, Layar has raised around $18.6 million over two rounds of funding and seed funding. The Netherlands-based company has around 40 employees and was founded in June last year.

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