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Augmented Reality: Gimmick or the future of advertising?

Posted by Dale Carr on May 4th, 2012 at 11:53 am

Many great innovations never really take off or are just too fiddly to ever gain consumer acceptance. A great idea is not always the next big thing. However, some lead industries and products into new areas that completely redefine the way we view the world. I have been wondering of late which one Augmented Reality (AR) falls into.

For those that have not come across it yet (and there are plenty), AR is considered the next phase of Virtual Reality (VR). Where VR is a completely virtual space not bound by physical reality, AR combines the real world with the virtual world. It is a live, view of a real-world environment with elements that are augmented by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics etc.

Still confused? Well, that might be part of the problem.

Tesco in the UK recently launched an Augmented Reality (AR) program on their website that allows you to view items in their catalogue in your real world. So if you want to see how a TV would look in your living room before you buy it – this can be done. The practical application of this sort of technology is endless.

However, the technology being in its infancy, it is still rather clunky. For the Tesco AR to work, you first need to print out a “marker” so the AR program knows where to place the product. You need to place the marker on your TV cabinet. You then need to position your webcam so it sees the marker within the environment you want to view. Then, you can only rotate the marker – which is great if you want to see the back of the TV, but not much good if you want to look at the whole environment from a different angle.

So, we are back to the question – is it great technology that is just too complicated, or is it the beginning of something incredible?

To be fair, those of us who have been frustrated with the user experience to date, realise it is probably because we can see the real potential.

Imagine staring down 5th Avenue in NY or Covent Garden in London and wondering where to start. You grab your phone, aim your mobile camera at the street and as you walk down, signs on your mobile screen let you know what is on special at which store and what the items look like. Maybe it will even be able to show what the clothes look like on. Pretty amazing.

Some of my generation might say “won’t your arm get tired?” or “wouldn’t it be easier to walk down the street and see the sign in the shop window that says 40% off or just search online for the cheapest TV?” But remember what the chairman of IBM said in 1943: “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” Sometimes we cannot even imaging where advances in technology will take us, but surely any step that enhances the consumer experience and makes relevant information more accessible is a positive one.

3 Responses to “Augmented Reality: Gimmick or the future of advertising?”

  1. Hanie Harel says:

    hello there, just read your post and wanted to give you a quick pic of what the technical and military industries are up to in this AR gimmick you've called....
    i would be glad to send you some materials that im sure will convey to a new blog on the issue, i would like to send you some by mail. if possible pls. contact me by mail to receive some more info.
    thank you
    Hanie Harel
    marketing manager
    Dreams & Magic Ltd.

  2. LeoSorge says:

    Gimmick in the open consumer arena, where the word "advertising" applies. Useful and promising in controlled areas, for different targets then "consumer" and "advertising".

  3. Jeff says:

    It's not a gimmick if the advertising is smart. Future players in this arena must always be aware of the information and technology to which they have access and use it to full advantage. For example, GPS is relevant to access product data records relevant to the local consumer. The device and the recent activity can also play a role in the type of message and the way in which it is delivered.

    Thinking out of the box is what AR is about, so ads confined to billboards which trigger an event is not necessary (although it's a good bridge between reality and virtual). I envision an AR browser through which searches and filters can be applied for the user to access what they seek. While things in reality could trigger events in the virtual world, simply being somewhere and having shown a pattern of recent activity could trigger a virtual event worth consuming.

    I'm walking down the streets of San Francisco and I've very recently tweeted about a movie category that I like and suddenly I'm invited to view an early viewing of a new movie trailer in a select test market. The prompt comes to my smartphone via an alert and I open my AR browser to view. The movie displays in 3D on the sidewalk before me - they used a blue-screen to film, so they filter out the background "noise" and I see only what they want me to see, amongst the real pedestrians before me. I can see this via my smartphone and through my AR eyewear (if I'm lucky to have them with me).

    The movie trailer ends and it's the coolest thing I've ever seen. My heart is racing and I'm prompted to share the experience with 3 friends to win tickets to the movie release event.

    Imagine the "advertising" opportunities. Yet, the line between advertising and just pure entertaining content is blurred, just as the real and virtual worlds are melded together.

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