According to Wikipedia, Augmented Reality is:
“A continuum across the Virtuality axis V includes reality augmented with graphics (Augmented Reality), as well as graphics augmented by reality (Augmented Virtuality)”
According to Dave, Augmented Reality is:
“Absolutely f***king awesome”
If you’re still none the wiser as to what AR is, the principle is pretty simple – real time, contextual computer generated graphics.
Hollywood have been mixing CGI with real locations and people for a couple of decades now (mainly to get dinosaurs to chase Jeff Goldblum). Rendering this stuff has always taken enormous computing power and many months to get right. And then it is used to depict 9 foot tall blue cats who live in the jungle.
But augmented reality basically means doing that stuff in real time, as you are looking on and – critically – in a useful way. So you can point a camera at a scene and render a logo on someone’s t-shirt in real time, even if they don’t actually have a logo there. The smartest systems will make the logo flex and respond as the wearer moves in such a way as to make it appear that the logo is actually there.
The possibilities for TV advertisers are pretty amazing. People watching Man United playing in Korea could, theoretically, see the players wearing a Korean brand. If anyone in Manchester actually watched Man U, they might see a Boddington’s logo instead. (People in the stadium would just see the regular line-up of pampered fancy dans falling over in response to every stiff breeze.)
Then there are already a handful of iPhone apps which allow you to point your iPhone camera around where you are and see information overlaid in real time. There is a neat London Tube app, for example, which lets you pan your iPhone around and see where the nearest tube station is located. The video explains it better:
Now picture a Wikipedia app that contextualised buildings as you pan around – highlighting important or interesting features. Or the possibilities for (inevitably) advertisers. There’s probably even some kind of killer sex application that I’m not motivated enough to think about at this exact moment.
Cool.. so what?
We talk a lot about marketing formats that are wedding to well established concepts. ‘Search’ is something you do at a laptop, or on a mobile device that acts like a desktop. The interface and interaction has essentially been unchanged for a couple of decades now and it’s easy to think that it’s forever.
But this is the kind of thing that Google has no access to. Millions of users, walking around with the potential to be carrying incredible, vertical-focused, customised and geographically contextual marketing channels in their pocket.
We’ve written a couple of posts over the last year or so that have touched on the fact that the next generation of web users aren’t even going to be aware of the web as we’ve come to understand it. Already WiFi and dongles and smartphones have created an even more pluralised infrastructure – and it is one that poses a serious long-term threat to the likes of Google.
If I can get house price information on a dedicated app that tells me where I am, what houses are for sale nearby, how to get to them and then combine that with a real time overlay of crime statistics, population data and local offers, then going to Google and typing in a load of pidgin-English search queries to get the information I want suddenly seems rather… quaint.
Things won’t change overnight but make no mistake – they are changing. Best change with them.