If your smartphone has a compass built-in, a camera and GPS, then it may soon offer “augmented reality” applications, which overlay information onto the phone’s screen while the camera is being pointed at a particular object or location. A Wikipedia article may pop up if the phone is pointed at the Washington Monument. A link to a person’s Facebook page may appear when the phone’s camera is pointed at a friend. These are the more talked about applications coming out of this mobile-powered, emerging industry known as “AR”.
Augmented Reality was recently pegged as the next big trend to hype in the tech industry. The publication that made the claim, ReadWriteWeb, is likely right, but their article closed with a sobering quote from the chairman of the AR Consortium, Robert Rice, which helps to put the emerging industry in perspective:
“Don’t be misguided by the gimmicky marketing applications now. Look ahead, and pay attention to what the visionaries are talking about right now,” Rice said. “AR has long-term implications for smart cities, green tech, education, entertainment, and global industry. This is serious business, but it has to be done right.”
We wondered if healthcare should be added to that list, so Mobihealthnews recently caught up with one start-up, called Layar, which has led the pack of AR developers with its platform for Google’s Android-powered mobile phones. Layar’s co-founder and director of distribution and marketing, Maarten Lens-FitzGerald, sees a lot of opportunity for healthcare service providers to leverage his company’s platform beyond the applications that exist today.
Mobihealthnews: Could you describe what Layar is and what the platform enables?
Lens-Fitzgerald: The unique thing about Layar is that it combines digital information with the real world around you. As you look through your phone’s camera, wherever the phone is pointed at, Layar overlays information on the screen that shows information about that location. Layar is a worldwide open platform that allows anyone who wants to make a “Layar” to do that. For example, if McDonald’s wants to create a Layar and display all of its restaurants’ locations, it can do that and include what menus they have at each or what opening times they have. This Layar can then be viewed in our Layar Browser, which is just like a Web browser on a mobile. It does not show Web pages, however, but specific Layars. It’s a tool that lets you discover your surroundings. Keep reading>>