SPRXmobile Launches "Augmented Reality" Browser for Android Mobile Phones

--Displays Real-Time Interactive Information over Phone's Camera Screen

Dutch mobile technology provider, SPRXmobile, launched a product called Layar, Tuesday, which it bills as the "world's first mobile Augmented Reality browser." The browser, which will initially be available free-of-charge in the Netherlands for handsets running the Android operating system, displays real-time digital information on top of a mobile phone's camera screen--effectively transforming reality into a giant, real-time interactive video experience. While looking through their phone's camera lens, SPRXmobile says, users can see overlays with, for example, information on houses that are for sale, local bars and stores, healthcare providers and ATM's. Thus, for example, a user looking to buy a house could select a real-estate "layer" (as SPRXmobile calls its overlays), specify a maximum budget, and then, whenever they pointed their mobile's camera at a house for sale within their price range from a participating real estate company, they would see a small dot over the house, together with clickable information about the house (e.g. price, contact info for the realtor who represents it) on an "information bar" at the bottom of the screen. SPRXmobile's launch partners for the new browser (i.e. the companies that will be providing information for its "layers") are financial institution, ING; real-estate Web site, funda; social-network, Hyves; temp agency, Tempo-team; and healthcare provider, Zekur.nl. SPRXmobile says that it offers an API that allows companies to develop their own "layers" for the browser. "Eventually, the physical and the virtual worlds will become one," SPRXmobile co-founder, Raimo van der Klein, said in a prepared statement. "Many visions of Augmented Reality have already been developed, but we are proud to be able to bring this one step closer to reality."

According to SPRXmobile, the Layar browser "is derived from location-based services" and works on Android-powered mobile phones that include a camera, GPS and a compass. In its press materials announcing the browser's launch, the company provides the following explanation of how it works: "Starting up the Layar application automatically activates the camera," the explanation reads. "The embedded GPS automatically knows the location of the phone and the compass determines in which direction the phone is facing. Each partner provides a set of location coordinates with relevant information which forms a digital layer. By tapping the side of the screen the user easily switches between layers. This," the explanation concludes, "makes Layar a new type of browser which combines digital and reality, which offers an augmented view of the world."

After its Dutch launch, Layar is slated to be rolled out on a country-by-country basis with local content partners. According to SPRXmobile, it will be available in the US, the UK and Germany later this year, with regular releases of new informational "layers" after each local launch. The company says that it is currently developing versions of the browser for other handsets and operating systems in addition to Android, and is focusing its efforts on developing a version for the iPhone 3G S. A video demo of the browser can be seen at: http://layar.eu

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