Buzzwords – Augmented Reality

Posted by on Sep 24, 2011

In the interactive space it feels like every few months there is a new hot technology. Something so exciting that it becomes an industry buzzword that eventually finds it’s way to the tip of our client’s tongues.

Thinking back over the last few years we can come up with quite a few of these buzzwords: Live Chat, File-Sharing, Flash Games, RFID, Mobile, Social, Facebook Games, QR Codes, Apps, etc… If we go back even further we find a few more like: Internet, World Wide Web, AOL and Email. Some of these terms became more successful than others and for every one there are countless more that never panned out.

All of these buzzwords have two things in common:

  • For a while they were so hot that you couldn’t help but feel they were the “next big thing” and some marketers were rushing to jump on the bandwagon.
  • Eventually the buzz faded. The real cost/benefit of each was realized and, good or bad, each earned it’s place in our list of tactics.

From time to time new buzzwords will start to gain some traction. In this week’s Digital Download we’ll take a look at one of these and sort out exactly what this term means and put some real facts against up against the coming buzz.

Augmented Reality (AR)

What is it?
An employee at Boeing first coined this term in 1990. In it’s simplest definition: AR is the addition of a digital layer to the physical world. Because the definition is so broad the term can be used to describe a wide variety of executions. For example, the yellow first down line shown on the field in NFL games, the heads up display in modern luxury cars and advanced smartphone apps like Layar can all be considered forms of augmented reality.

Why is it a big deal?
The reason AR is becoming more and more prevalent is because of it’s interactive and immersive possibilities. When you mix together a digital layer of information, user interaction, user generated content and devices that know where you are, what direction you’re facing and what you’re looking at, a whole new world of possibilities opens up.

Augmented Reality is meant to be experienced, so rather than read about a bunch of examples take a look at these videos showing different ways of using AR.

AR Explained by Common Craft: (Sorry they wouldn’t let us embed the video)

Layar Vision:

Android Version:

If not, you can try a different type of AR by checking out GE’s Innovation website.

The Downside.
If AR looks and feels like the future and it’s already available, why isn’t everyone doing it? For one, the cost of engagement to the consumer is still a bit too high.

The Doritos and GE examples assume that your audience has a computer with a webcam and will take the time interact with it. For some audiences these requirements are a slam-dunk, for others the amount of guidance needed will outweigh the benefit of interacting. For examples like Layar or what’s covered in the video from Common Craft you’re still relying on a tech savvy audience that has the right device and either has or is willing to install the correct app.

Until it becomes a bit more commonplace for users to have an AR app installed using this tactic will remain a very cool but very limited proposition. But this day is coming; devices are more connected, more capable and more prevalent than ever before and people are getting more comfortable with how technology works. Within the next year we’ll start seeing hints of AR in more and more places, 2 years from now it may be as common as any other tactic.

Understanding the experience and limitations of AR means we’ll be better suited to respond when our clients inevitably bring this up and gives us a chance to come up with creative ways to use this tech before it becomes just another mainstream buzzword.

Thanks for reading this week’s Digital Download and as always; if you have questions or suggestions for topics feel free to let us know.