Last Friday I met Maarten Lens-Fitzgerald from SPRXMobile. He gave me a demonstration of a new application they built, named Layar. Layar is, according to their website, a free application for your mobile phone which shows what is around you by displaying real time digital information on top of reality though the camera of the mobile phone.
Currently it’s only available on Android phones. In the near future, however, it might become available for the iPhone as well.
Layar is a browser. On top of the image of the camera in a mobile phone, this browser displays an information layer. For instance, the location of all ATMs around you. A small dot shows you the direction and the distance of an ATM. Once you select one ATM, you can get additional information about this ATM. Also, you can call a map to see how to get to this ATM from your current position.
I was impressed by the demonstration, although not everything went fluently. The potential of such an application for the Museum of National History (and doubtlessly other museums) is enormous.
A museum with a collection that cannot be (entirely) within the walls of the actual building can turn a country into its backyard with Layar. Historical sites, special architecture and even elements of another museum’s collection can be made available to visitors, always and everywhere.
The only prerequisite is a database with the information of all objects. This can be a challenge, but in today’s socially organised digital world users can help to build this database.
I see in Layar a great opportunity for our museum. The opportunities seem endless. There are some challenges to overcome, but without a doubt an application like Layar can become the core of many of the future’s museums.
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