Augmented Reality – The Future Is Now

Posted: August 27, 2009 in Augmented Reality, Mobile, Trends
Tags: , , , ,

Augmented reality, recently in experimentation mode and mocked at by many in the advertising industry as a gimmick, just grew up.

Layar is the first official augmented reality app, and guess what – it’s not available for the iPhone…yet. So I downloaded it onto my wife’s Android phone (thanks baby), and I am proud to say that the future is now folks. Augmented reality in mobile apps mark the beginning of something HUGE.

For the uninitiated, augmented reality (AR) is conceptually any technology that ties the real and virtual world’s together. For the mobile device, AR will utilize the built in GPS, compass and video camera, creating an unlimited potential to layer content onto any physical location in the real world.

This promo video from Layar and the video from Yelp below are great examples of the potential. I’m excited!

Yelp is officially the first iPhone application that supports augmented reality, however, it seems to be a hidden  feature in the app since it’s technically not supposed to be ready for prime time yet. If you have an iPhone 3Gs, download the Yelp app, shake the hone three times and the AR icon will appear. I know it sounds silly, but it’s actually kind of a cool way to unlock the feature. Really, I’m not trying to make a fool of you shaking your iPhone all about. Now you can point your iPhone at a restaurant and the reviews come up – sans searching. Did I mention this was going to be HUGE! Kudos for Yelp for implementing the perfect complimentary feature for their app early. They are going to kick butt with this.

And I think this is the first full fledge AR iPhone app, which is a version of the New York City subway map – outstanding!

Some examples of the first generation of AR application in marketing are sort of snoresville (except the Star Trek one, check that out below). There is definitely a novelty factor to it, but I don’t see these AR ads going very far. It’s just more of the same, with a twist – but still feeble attempts by marketers at getting consumers to care more about their ads versus providing experiences that consumers truly value. Here’s how it worked — A print ad or computer print out, is held up to your webcam (yes all of the existing marketing applications of AR require the use of your webcam), and you can then see and interact with a three dimensional advertisement on your screen. “Hey buy my stuff (in 3D)”

Here is an example of one of the Best Buy circulars that incorporated AR (you can also see more on the Best Buy in 3D website)


The GE Smart Grid ad (one of the first US-based AR ads) was more of a brand campaign and included a neat interactive component.

Super cool Star Trek Trailer (I’m not a Trekie, but totally geeked out on this one)

My buddy Adam Broitman’s new firm recently launched an AR game as a marketing asset for A&E Television’s Chris Angel. I like the application of AR in a game format. People want to play games, they don’t necessarily want to interact with advertising as much.

So there you have it folks. With the new mobile operating systems’ ability to handle this type of technology, we are about to witness an explosion of innovation that will benefit consumers and marketers alike. Think about it…any physical location, anywhere in the world can be layered with content (information, reviews, photos, videos, commerce).

 The future of augmented reality is now!

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  1. john andrews says:

    Things are unfolding quickly, perhaps thanks to competition. 3 AR apps on iphone as of today see

  2. Great wrap up and thanks for the shout out!

    When are we collaborating on an AR app? 😉

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