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Business, Entertainment - Written by on Tuesday, August 18, 2009 9:32 - 2 Comments

Augmented Reality: Not Just For Kids

A colleague of mine, Alan Majer, first introduced me to augmented reality and indeed, he was the first to blog about an augmented reality game here on Wikinomics. Last year, he wrote about his adventure of taking apart the Tuttuki bako, a Japanese toy that allows users to insert their finger into the box and then play games with virtual characters on the screen. The display is very low tech, reminding me of the very graphics used in the original Snake game that came standard with Nokia phones in 1998, but the idea was interesting.

This year, at E3 2009, Sony gave a preview of their new PSP game Invizimals, which is to be released in the UK this fall. The game uses augmented reality to capture children’s imaginations and enhance the gaming experience. According to the introductory video in the game, a Japanese scientist created a camera that is more sensitive than the human eye and can ‘see’ invizimals that humans cannot. The game tasks you to find the invizimals using the PSP camera (the screen begins to pulse when the camera detects an invizimal) and to trap them by placing a star shaped card in the vicinity of the invizimal. If done correctly, the Invizimal, a little, wild, computer-generated animal, will appear on the PSP screen on top of the real star-shaped card, as shown in this YouTube video. Once captured, the Invizimals can be battled against each other, and during the battle, players can blow on the screen to create a windstorm or cast a shadow over the screen to create a lighting strike.

GE windmills


Seeing the augmented reality technology used by Sony, I became intrigued with marketing applications for such technology. After some searching, I came across GE’s use of augmented reality in promoting Smart Grid, a project that encourages energy efficiency and the harnessing of renewable energy sources. GE has created a windmill model (shown in the picture above) that is enhanced by augmented reality and can be viewed using a webcam and the ‘marker’ (a 2D bar code) from their Smart Grid website. Although the model is very interesting to view, this use of augmented reality is playing on the novelty of the technology and not using the technology to its full potential.



My Ikea


I later came across a concept that uses augmented reality to enhance marketing for IKEA in an effective way. It’s called My.IKEA. The idea is that augmented reality can be used by IKEA customers to literally ‘picture’ the furniture in their rooms before purchasing. The customer sets up a webcam in their room, prints out markers that are each tied to an item of furniture and places the markers where they would like the furniture. In the example picture above, the marker for the virtual table is visible, but the virtual couch sits on top of its marker. I love this concept for two reasons: one, it takes a lot of guesswork out of furniture shopping and two, it allows people to show concepts to each other, chat online about them and compete for the best designs. The social aspect to this concept makes it interactive and fun for those that are interested in design, and creates a community that is interested in discussing IKEA products.

Another interesting development is using augmented reality with QR codes on billboards and in magazines. When the codes are scanned by a mobile phone, the image in the advertisement would transform on the mobile screen into a 3D augmented reality picture. These ideas, though, have the same issue as GE’s augmented reality model: once the novelty has worn off, they will no longer be of much interest. One area where it could be useful is if when the code is scanned, the advertisement for, say a cruise, could pop up in 3D and allow you to navigate through the cruise ship, taking a 3D tour of the facilities.

I’m interested to know what you think. Will augmented reality become commonplace in marketing in the future?


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Aug 18, 2009 16:29

yes, and no.
AR will first become commonplace in our daily life, and only then it will become commonplace in marketing. The same was true for any other medium in history (TV, the web).

giulio quaggiotto
Aug 25, 2009 9:05

thanks for the pointers. One aspect you might be interested in, in relation to AR, is its applications to sustainable development problems. I recently came across the description of an interesting prototype, focusing on potential uses in a field project in Africa, at http://appfrica.net/blog/2009/08/12/the-future-of-giving.

If tools like these will turn out to deliver their promise to help the fight against poverty, marketing might indeed seem like a secondary application of AR!



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