Layar, the jaw-dropping Dutch Augmented Reality browser we wrote about earlier this summer, announced today that it is now available worldwide on Android handsets. Hundreds of new data layers are available to view on top of your phone's camera viewer, from Wikipedia entries when you're looking at geographic points of interest to Trulia real estate listings that are viewable when you point your phone at homes for sale.
Trulia says it only took about 3 hours to build its layer on the Layar data set, something that's very promising for the future of the platform. The program is now coming preinstalled on the Samsung Galaxy (i7500) in the Netherlands, and the company says the iPhone 3GS will be next. Other developers have reported that they expect the iPhone to offer official support for Augmented Reality apps as soon as next month.
Of all the Augmented Reality apps we've seen so far, though, Layar is the most exciting because it's a platform. We look forward to seeing if the user experience can come close to matching the huge amount of hype this medium is getting. The possibilities are many; New York new media agency SoundWalk is developing a mixed-reality fiction data set for Layar, for example, where users will be able to listen to a story tied to physical locations around their cities and navigate through the story by walking down the street and viewing the places they visit through their phones. Location-based social network Brightkite has already launched a layer that lets you view location check-ins, photos and messages left by your friends in the places you view through your phone.
Layar announced today that it has shared API keys with 100 layer developers. We hope that API access will be open in the future and that Augmented Reality layers will not be subject to the company's approval and vetting relative to its existing commercial partnerships. As one proprietary AR browser launches, it's not hard to see a future in which an Open Source competitor plays like Firefox in this space as well. Time will tell which direction Layar goes.