The Augmented Reality browser Layar is currently in transition from a pure novelty to hosting some actually useful tools, and there is still a lot of geek-orientated commentary on day-to-day uses. While these new layers (compiled maps of points-of-interest) might not be ground-breaking, they do give some good indications of general design considerations.
Here is my list of 8 things to think about when creating a Layar layer, for whatever reason. This is not an exhaustive list, and you’re invited to contribute your own thoughts via the comments.
1. Include a feedback facility
It is really essential that you allow an in-app method for both bug reports and also reviews of each featured point. Not only do you want to have some form of feedback for incorrect details, reviews also allow you to crowd-source a geo-tagged knowledge base of your points – for free!
2. Consult GoogleMaps for meta-data about your location
There’s no reason not to include the same level of information as GoogleMaps has, at the very least. Provide the Street Address, telephone number, description, and opening times (all where appropriate).
3. Tie in external links
Again, there is no reason not to leverage external links. A quick link to the Wikipedia entry for a location when “in the field” could be invaluable.
4. Make use of colour coding and categories (but not too many!)
Order your points into sensible categories which fit with the intended use of your layer, and use a standard colour coding. This will introduce some reassuring logic into an otherwise confusing swirl of points. These categories can be used for revising searches or filtering, and ideally there’d be between somewhere 3 and 7.
5. Connect to social media
Consider linking your application and it’s individual points to Facebook and Twitter. This enhances the user experience, and also gives your layer free word-of-mouth exposure!
6. Think about timeliness
Augmented Reality can go stale. Think about ways of dealing with obsolete data, or archival or historical data. At the bare minimum should involve time-stamping your content; that way it remains informative as a historical record. In layers that feature archival information, consider providing filtering via a time-line.
7. Use sound and video
It’s fairly safe to say that your users can see the buildings in real life. While the text can be educational and informative, using other media can help enrich the experience. Layar supports tagging points with sound and video, which you can use to create location-aware, automatically triggered audio tours. The scope for creative use of these is enormous!
8. Leverage geo-tagged services
If you have neither the time or the budget to create your own accompanying media, there’s help. By plugging into services such as Flickr, Picassa, YouTube, and Vimeo, you can take advantage of an ever-growing collection of community media. Use API searches of geo-tagged content to pull in others’ media into your points. (I have been working on a Layar layer which pulls these straight from geoRSS – see my other post).