Layar POI service using Google App Engine

Layar is a cool handheld augmented reality application that allows to overlay “Layers” on the image seen by a handheld device’s camera. One can think of these layers as content that is seen based on your current location. This allows to overlay digital data over actual live imagery.

The Layar API depends that the source of data (Points Of Interest) is a RESTful web service, that sends an HTTP GET request, and expects back  a JSON object. The details of the GET parameters, and the required JSON object could be found here in the layar API documentation.

To create a layer, one needs to provide such a service that provides the Points Of Interest (POI). Such a service could easily be written and provided by google app engine. This article will discuss how to do so using the google app engine python SDK, and is highly depends on the getting started guide for google app engine through python. Sections 1-4,6 are sufficient for understanding of the coming content.

Handling Requests

Since requests from layar to the POI web service come in the form of GET requests, the parameters can simply be accessed in the request handling method through:


POI Response

The POI response that layar expects is a json object. The API place many restrictions on the response. The first comes in the content type of the HTTP response. Thus, it has to be set as follows:

self.response.headers['Content-type'] = 'text/javascript; charset=utf-8'

Another restriction is in JSON object returned as a response, where almost all the fields are required by layar. To make things simpler, the object is to be represented as a python object. This could be later converted to a JSON object. The JSON object responded with could be represented as follows (as a minumum):

{'layer':'layer name', 'hotspots':list_of_POI, 'errorCode':0, 'errorString':'ok'}

Where hotspots is a list of POI object. These object could be represented as:

class POI:
    def __init__(self,poi_id,title,lat,lang):
        self.actions = [] = poi_id
        self.imageURL = None = lat
        self.lon = lang
        self.distance = None
        self.title = title
        self.line2 = None
        self.line3 = None
        self.line4 = None
        self.attribution = ""
        self.type = 0
        self.dimenion = 1
        self.transform = {'rel':True, 'angle':0, 'scale':1.0}
        self.object = {'baseURL': ""}

From python to JSON

As python follows a batteries all included strategy, there are libraries that convert python dictionaries to JSON objects. Even though google app engine uses python, the “json” module is not available. Thankfully, an equivalent one is found through “from django.utils import simplejson”. It could be used to convert a python dictionary (that looks frightfully like a JSON object) to a JSON object string as follows:

simplejson.dumps({'layer':'guc', 'hotspots':poi_list, 'errorCode':0, 'errorString':'ok'})

The problem with simplejson is that it only takes dictionaries or lists. Thus, this poses a problem when using the POI class mentioned earlier. Again, python comes with a rescue, where a dictionary representing the object could be obtained as follows:

poi = POI('C1','C1',29986707,31438864)
poiDictionary = poi1.__dict__

Putting the code together

Now that we have the POI object, and the conversion mechanism, we are ready to have a request handler for layar requests. An example of static POIs is as follows:

from django.utils import simplejson
from poi import POI
from google.appengine.ext import webapp
from google.appengine.ext.webapp.util import run_wsgi_app

class POIHandler(webapp.RequestHandler):
	def get(self):
		self.response.headers['Content-type'] = 'text/javascript; charset=utf-8'
		#latitude and longitude is an integer will be divided by 10^6
		# so take care of accuracy after the division
		poi1 = POI('C1','C1',29986707,31438864).__dict__
		poi2 = POI('C2','C2',29986744,31439272).__dict__
		poi3 = POI('C3','C3',29986995,31438923).__dict__
		poi4 = POI('C4','C4',29987153,31439245).__dict__
		poi5 = POI('C5','C5',29986326,31438810).__dict__
		poi6 = POI('C6','C6',29986688,31438569).__dict__
		poi7 = POI('C7','C7',29986442,31438370).__dict__
		pois = [poi1,poi2,poi3,poi4,poi5,poi6,poi7]
		# final getPOI response dictionary
		d = {'layer':'guc', 'hotspots':pois, 'errorCode':0, 'errorString':'ok'}

application = webapp.WSGIApplication(

def main():

if __name__=='__main__':


With the new layar 4 api coming soon, and the new features being in beta2, un update of how to add one of my favorite new features is needed. This is having different actions on the entire layar. It can be easily done by adding an action attribute to the final getPOI response dictionary (see code above). An example of the addition is as follows:

d['actions'] = [{'uri':'','label':'action on the entire layar'}]

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4 Responses to “Layar POI service using Google App Engine”

  1. Fatma Says:

    Did you publish this or are you waiting for a key? you got a key already?
    We are working on GUC as well.
    You know the thing that I loved the most about wikitude and layar is the platform and how easy it is to make layers 😉 Also with wikitude are proposing the ARML to standardize the procedure.
    Let me know if you have finished creating the layer or not 🙂


    • saherneklawy Says:

      The layer is there and working (i tried it on my phone with the dev apk). It was a child of Mariam wanting to experiment for her Layar seminar. I got excited and a simple layer was born

  2. Richard Green Says:

    I would not normally bother to comment – but you sir have saved me probably a few hours of work going through the pain (discovery?) of getting a simple GAE -> layar interface working and for that I thank you for allowing me an early night and not spending hours debugging gae -> python -> json -> layar stuff.

    Thanks again ! And will happily credit you in code using your objects (if you require).


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