Why: Augmented reality enhances the value of a mobile device, employing its camera and GPS and displaying information about the user's surroundings.
Key innovation: Its development platform lets businesses and advertisers add AR functions to their own apps.
Layar develops software that uses a mobile phone's built-in camera, compass, and GPS to display content about the outside world as the user navigates through it. Someone who has downloaded the application on their phone can walk through a city and see which buildings have apartments that are for rent, learn interesting facts about specific neighborhoods, and read reviews of the restaurants they pass.
ABI Research projects that revenues associated with augmented-reality applications will grow from about $6 million in 2008 to more than $350 million in 2014.
Layar has negotiated deals with many of the world's major mobile phone manufacturers to have its software preloaded. That software can now be found on one out of every three new phones shipped globally. Businesses, publishers, and advertisers can create their own layers of information to be displayed on the Layar platform. Most are free, but last year, Layar introduced a content store that allows companies to charge for augmented-reality applications delivered to a user's phone. The company plans to make money by taking 40 percent of proceeds from sales of layers.
Challenges and Next Steps:
In January, Layar released an augmented-reality player that lets developers embed the company's technology into any iPhone app. The company plans to offer more ways for its software to be incorporated into mobile applications.