Two big entrants in the world of augmented reality today brought their apps to the iPhone today.
Both Layar, one of Europe’s pioneers in augmented reality browsing, and the popular restaurant-finding app Urbanspoon are using the technology to mark up the real world. Augmented reality is a nascent field that lets developers superimpose data and graphics on a camera’s viewfinder (kind of like how the Terminator scopes out targets, but not deadly).
The apps are part of an oncoming wave of augmented reality projects that will flood into the iPhone as Apple gradually adjusts its application programming interfaces to manipulate live video. There are a few more APIs needed to make other types of augmented reality possible, but projects that rely solely on the phone’s GPS, compass and accelerometer can work.
Amsterdam-based Layar is an augmented reality browser that has existed on Google’s Android platform since the summer. It lets other content providers like real estate companies, social networks, and entertainment listings feed their data in to create special “layers” of markers. You can browse around and see nearby job listings, places to have a drink or transit hubs, for example.
Urbanspoon’s augmented reality feature shows circles overlaid on top of your physical surroundings. Larger ones mean they’re closer by. Gold-colored circles mean they’re more highly-rated, while gray ones have received poorer reviews. If you face your phone to the ground, Urbanspoon gives you a map interface to help you navigate.
Layar has 15 full-time employees and is privately funded. Seattle-based Urbanspoon was bought by web giant IAC/InterActive Corp. in April and has six employees.