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article imageReport: AR app Layar's creators want to buy it back from Blippar

By James Walker     Jul 5, 2017 in Technology
Two of the cofounders of Layar, a pioneering augmented reality startup, are said to be interested in buying the company back from owner Blippar. The cofounders sold their app in 2014 for an undisclosed sum. They now want to return to ownership.
Layar was one of the first mainstream augmented reality apps. Founded in 2009, the app offered an early version of an AR environment map. Holding your phone in front of a building or sign would give you information about it, allowing to see more of your surroundings. Layar was also provided interactive magazine covers that offered video content when you pointed your phone at the page.
In 2014, Layar cofounders Maarten Lens-Fitzgerald, Raimo van der Klein and Claire Boonstra sold the company to Blippar. Described as a "visual discovery app," Blippar offers a greatly-expanded version of Layar's technologies. You can point your phone at books, images, TV shows and household items to get more information and engage in augmented reality experiences. Blippar has heavily incorporated Layar's pioneering technology into its product.
READ MORE: Prototype augmented reality system uses your desk as a display
Since selling Layar, Lens-Fitzgerald and van der Klein have been running another startup. They're now said to be interested in getting back into the augmented reality industry in a way that could disrupt current development of the technology. Business Insider reports that the pair have "informally" approached Blippar about buying back Layar. Boonstra is not thought to be involved.
The cofounders are reportedly interested in regaining control of Layar because Blippar "lacks vision and strategy." Business Insider, citing a source "with knowledge of the matter," suggested the pair have spotted an opportunity in augmented reality that their technology could develop.
If they succeed in buying back Layar, the AR market could change significantly. As one of the first companies to have publicly debuted an AR app, Layar's independent re-entry could offer a credible alternative to the emerging ecosystems offered by the likes of Apple's ARKit and Microsoft's Windows Holographic Platform. Blippar is said to have turned down the current proposals.
Questions remain if the cofounders can feasibly reclaim Layar, even if Blippar were to indicate agreement. Since much of Blippar is now built on Layar's technology, it could prove impossible to work out what belongs to each company.
There's another reason why Blippar would turn down the offer too. Layar had 1.2 million users when it was bought by Blippar. Today, Blippar is said to have "close to 500,000." An internal source told Business Insider that Blippar has "run [Layar] into the ground" and most of the company's users are provided by the app.
Letting Layar go could prove to be disastrous for Blippar but potentially enable more innovation in the augmented reality space. While the claims that Blippar lacks "vision" are unsubstantiated, a re-entry from one of the first augmented reality apps could increase competition as the concept develops.
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