BARCELONA - If you’re into AR and have played around with the many AR-enabled mobile apps published in iTunes and Google Play, you have probably heard by now about Blippar acquiring Layar. This means different things for everyone involved in the AR industry, for consumers, for professionals and for the future of the AR industry as a whole.
I first came into contact with Layar at a startup event in Barcelona in 2009 and was impressed with Layar's vision and ability to market AR's potential for immersive experiences on mobile to both techies and marketeers alike. I also described Layar's use of geo-location in my book on Location Aware Applications.
If you’re not entirely certain what those companies do, the rundown is that they both provide an app which enables consumers to scan printed media or packaged products that have an interactive campaign or digital content attached to them. Typically users know about that content because there is a call to action. Those apps compete with others like Junaio or Wikitude, alternative ‘AR browsers’.
The most prominent advantage of AR browsers is that users need only one app for multiple content. Once installed, it pulls new content on demand from the cloud.The disadvantage when comparing branded apps and browsers is for content creators. Brands and publishers have limited control of the whole experience (as well as the branding) and they share the same space with competitors.
Blippar has been doing a very good job of providing high quality experiences on their browser. Operating like an agency, they take care of the end to end solution but publish on Blippar’s app. Layar is probably the king in terms of volume of experiences inside their platform. But with volume and scale, comes some limitations on the versatility of the experiences as you cannot go one-by-one. It remains to be seen if a new Layar-Blippar browser app will lean more towards volume or towards curated content.
So what lies in store in the future? Beautifully crafted, branded AR-capable apps are more likely to win hearts-and-minds of mobile users.A foreseeable option is that, just as happened with location, AR and image recognition capabilities will increasingly be embedded within a multitude of apps in a seamless fashion. (Credit to D.Marimon for parts of this post).