WARNING…This is a lengthy post.
Augmented what? Yeah…that’s what I said the first time I heard the term.
What is Augmented Reality (AR)?
There are several examples in this posting that will explain what it is, and I hope I’m able to spark some ideas on what more it can/will be.
First, AR, at least at the consumer level, is by no means a mature technology yet…yet. Don’t get me wrong, there are functioning AR technologies out there, but many are just barely getting past the “pong” stage, to use a hackneyed video game metaphor. AR is clearly in its infancy, but it’ll be exciting to watch it grow-up.
Ok…but what is it?
AR technology is the nexus between our physical/real environment and the electronic data within our computers and the internet. AR uses a camera of some sort (typically a web cam) to bring the physical world into the computer, where it then synchs and merges it with data. It does this using a surprisingly simple method for pattern recognition, often just a pattern printed on a piece of paper, for reference points, and it uses these reference points to merge data (animation, video, whatever) with reality, synching it in space and time with what you see on the computer.
Here’s a simple example of one of the most widely used demos of AR (that I’ve seen so far anyway). It’s a Mini Cooper clip, about an ad in a German magazine…so forgive the language barrier, unless you spreckenzie…
Ok…so, that’s kinda cool…but so what?
The novelty will wear off quickly for users because that really doesn’t DO anything. So how can brands make AR something more than a novel experience for their customers, and make it functional? How can they bring their customers closer to the brand, enhance their brand experience, inform them, and better yet, inspire their customers to take action?
Here’s a great example of how “Lego’s” is using AR in some of their point-of-purchase displays (I found this clip on Funkadelic Advertising’s Blog):
So you can see they’re doing a bit more with AR. They are getting the attention of the child customer (and his brother, and his mother, and probably everyone else walking by), sparking intrigue, causing the customer to act (picking up the product), but anyone can do that with just about any POP gimick…but Lego’s strategically uses AR to take the customer further. It actually takes the customer inside the box, to show them what’s possible. This is perfect for Lego’s because Lego’s is a toy about imagination and creativity. They’re sparking the imagination in the customer, in 3-D, and in a new and innovative way that they’ll remember. I’d be willing to bet that the child asked his mom to buy that Lego kit!
But let’s take it a little further.
Yelp!, the social site that allows everyday folks to review and comment on their favorite places, is on the leading edge of AR in the mobile world (Droid users may think “Google Goggles” is too, but click HERE to see why it’s not). Yelp has a function called “monocle” on its iPhone app (3Gs versions only). See this posting from Ben Parr at MASHABLE to see how it works…THIS is functional AR:
Ok…That was cool. But how can brands incorporate this technology for their specific brands (not that Yelp! isn’t a brand, but they’re a brand that depends on other brands).
AR will change the way brands advertise
I think that in the not-so-distant future, AR will change the way brands advertise. In fact, I think it may also actually SAVE the way we have BEEN advertising…let me explain.
Anyone in the marketing communication business knows that the advertising industry is spinning in circles trying to develop business models to replace their current practices, which are being left in the dust by accelerating technologies. DVRs and the internet are killing TV advertising while the internet and social media fueled demise of newspapers and magazines are killing the print ad biz…both traditional cash cows for the advert folks. The industry seems to be in a tailspin.
I’ve read several articles on AR and it’s potential in advertising, but I feel there’s something missing. I think too many people are looking too narrowly at its potential. They seem to be fixated on the notion you need a webcam, and a computer. Well, it’s ridiculous to think someone would take a newspaper ad and hold it up to their web cam so it could interface with their laptop…that’s cumbersome, awkward, and would quickly wear-out its novelty. But today most mobile devices have cameras and large screens. And I think it would be much easier to maneuver my phone around a static ad rather than an ad around a static web cam. I think people would readily use their phones, but how would this bring people closer a brand experience?
Imagine sitting with your morning paper, a coffee, and your mobile device. You see an ad for a restaurant you’ve heard your friends rave about, so you take your mobile device, open an app, point the camera at the ad, and ‘poof’ an Augmented Reality graphic pops off the printed page. The graphic has a link to the menu, and links to make reservations, to get directions to the restaurant using your GPS enabled phone (iPhone and Droids have this), a special discount code for interactive customers, and allows you to read reviews on, oh, I don’t know…Yelp! maybe?
This could work with any brand, on any type of print ad (billboards, bus ads, point-of-purchase displays, mall signage, bus stop signage, whatever). These ‘interactivated’ print ads could be used to drive traffic to desired physical locations (an ad for a pair of shoes could send you to the nearest store that carries them) or internet locations (airline billboard lets you buy tickets from your mobile device). They could be used for promotional purposes to enhance brand experiences (discounts for interactivated ad users), or increase product knowledge (a car ad that links you to more specific product details…and even nearby dealers). The opportunities are endless.
And imagine, advertisers will now have metrics for their print and out-of-home ads that internet ads offer! Newspaper, magazine, transit ads, and other movable media that would run in multiple books or locations could use unique codes to determine which is giving them the best return. But static medium (billboards, bus-stop ads, etc.) could use the GPS functions to know what ads are getting the most traffic.
I’d love to hear from some tech folks on the specifics, but I’m pretty sure the technologies exist, right now, to make these scenario possible. Do we even need the little pattern symbols on our ads (see above videos if that doesn’t make sense)? Aren’t all ads unique enough to be their own character recognition pattern (except for movable medium that may have the same ad in various locales mentioned above)?
AR, in my opinion, will not only revolutionize advertising, it will save print advertising, and who knows…maybe even newspapers and magazines?
Would love to hear your thoughts and ideas!
Here are some interesting articles/blogs on the subject if you’d like to see what others are thinking:
From Fox Business: “Augmented Reality: Can It Save the Print Media?”
Click here for the Esquire AR site
A blog post from “Build a Movement” by Sarah Firestone about this month’s “Esquire” magazine’s article on AR:
Visit Esquire’s AR site here (probably need the magazine first though):
From Fast Company: “WhyYour Next Gen Smarphone Will Do Augmented Reality“
From Funkadelic Advertising’s Blog: “Top 10 Augmented Reality Advertising“
From The Future of Ads Blog: “Augmented Reality Will Change Advertising“