This year we’ve seen some pretty cool “out of home” branded augmented reality executions. Below are videos from Disney, National Geographic and Lynx showcasing their work. As you’ll see, they are pretty similar in concept, and yet subtly different in execution.
It’s always fun to watch people’s reactions in these videos. Part amazement, part wonder and part pure joy. I like all three executions, but personally, the National Geographic’s one is my favorite. Admittedly, I’m a bit of a nerd about NatGeo (among other things). I love that channel. But I also love that they used some gesture controls to make the AR experience more interactive.
So what do you think? Which one do you like best? I’d love to get your thoughts below…
I read a lot (which probably shocks those of you that know me) of articles, blog posts and the like on Augmented Reality (AR). And it’s interesting to me how much buzz Mobile AR is getting. In fact some articles seem to think that Mobile AR and AR are synonymous… that is, they seem to discuss it as if it’s the only type of AR. There’s some great work being done around the world with Kiosks and Online, yet everyone seems enamored with mobile. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t have much of an issue with that (“a rising tide lifts all boats”), but the problem for me, is that the buzz/hype is disproportionate to the near term practicality of the medium. I feel as though you brand and agency folks reading this might be getting a touch misled. The fact remains it just doesn’t make sense for most of you to do a Mobile AR campaign today. In a few years, it will be different (hopefully. I mean remember how it was “the year of mobile” in 1999, and 2000, and 2001, and 2002, and 2003….). But we aren’t talking about 2015 right now, we’re talking about 2010.
Now before I discuss the reasons I feel this way below I just want to make it clear that if you’re doing something with mobile that’s incredibly cool and your main goal is to get press, then my points aren’t applicable. I’m really only focusing on the brands/agencies that want to engage their consumers.
Now let’s get down to it. I think the main reason Mobile AR isn’t practical comes down to primarily two reasons: Technical Issues, and Consumer Reach.
I wrote at length last August (2009) about the Technical Issues, specifically the inaccuracies of Civilian Grade GPS and the Compasses that are installed on smartphones. So I won’t rehash that here even though the points are still valid a year later (If you want to read that post though, please click here). I would like to bring up a new point briefly though, and that’s Data Accessibility. Simply put, the networks aren’t fast enough yet and web content loads too slow to provide a reliable and satisfying experience for mobile users. That’s not just my opinion, according to an eMarketer report that came out this morning 29% of people feel that the biggest problem with accessing the mobile web is that sites load too slow. Do you think people really want to wait 15 – 30 seconds on a street corner with their phone pointed in a direction waiting for the content to load? I don’t… Will 4G be the answer? Maybe. But what’s the penetration rate of 4G right now? And that gets me to my second point… consumer reach.
There was a great infographic yesterday on Mashable regarding the popularity of the iPhone. There were some fascinating stats in there. I learned that 83% of Americans have a mobile phone and 25% of phone owners (i.e. that 83%) own a smartphone (both numbers are higher than the rest of the world. Those numbers are 68% and 17% respectively). Now, obviously you need a smart phone to interact with AR, so where does that put us? Roughly 1 in 5 Americans has the technology to interact with your mobile AR execution. Not terrible numbers (as I’m sure you’re targeting the “early adopters” anyways), but it’s not actually the full picture. According to an InfoWeek article “Nielsen reports that 33% of smartphone owners in the U.S. haven’t even subscribed to a data plan”. Obviously why someone would own a smartphone with no data plan is a head-scratcher, but apparently a large number of people do it (and let’s not forget, that was before AT&T and Apple began phasing out the “all you can eat” data plan so it will be interesting to see how people use their phone’s when data is a bit more of a “precious resource”). Of course, no data plan means that 1 in 3 smartphone owners can’t technically access your execution. The potential reach of your execution just got much smaller… Wait, you’re just creating an execution for the iPhone? None of the other smartphone operating systems? Again, your reach just got smaller.
Now, I don’t want to be a complete pessimist, so I wanted to point you towards two mobile AR executions that I really like. That’s not to say that the issues above don’t still apply. It’s just that if you plan on doing Mobile AR no matter what, these executions conceptually separate themselves from the pack:
1) A “Tower Defense Game” called “ARDefender”. Rather than try to describe it, I’ve embedded a video demo below. Once you watch the video, think about the potential of using product packaging to engage consumers in this way (are you reading this kid’s CPG manufacturers?). The possibilities are pretty exciting…
2) iButterfly. Now admittedly, this is an execution from Japan so we were unable to try it out. But as you’ll see in the video below, the concept is unique, and engaging.
Via Mashable comes the Last Exorcism viral campaign on video chat site Chatroulette. This is one of the better ones out there though is showing the trend of how easy it is to use prerecorded video/animations on video chat. Similar to how chat bots took over Instant Messaging back in the day, initially it will be hard to tell if you’re having a conversation with a real person. At least with video, you can have an augmented reality experience which makes it a bit more interesting…
One Apple fan-boy seems to have taken a fair amount of offense to those anti-iPhone Droid ads that came out last week… So, he took the time to fight back, and created his own spoof ad (via Mashable). What do you think of the video?
In case you haven’t seen the original, here ya go:
This week, Layar, a mobile augmented reality browser for Android phones launched globally to an incredible amount of excitement in the tech community. So, what exactly is Layar? Well, I’ll let Mashable describe it because they can do a much more efficient job than I can:
“Layar is a Reality Browser, which means it displays real time digital meta data on top of the physical world around you, as seen through the camera of your mobile phone. Point the camera anywhere, and you’ll see layers of information on top of real world objects; these layers can be real estate info, bars and shops, tourist information, tweets from users etc. Imagine sitting in an internet cafe and seeing what the folks around you are tweeting through you camera? Well, that’s exactly how it works”.
Only, here’s the problem. That may be how it’s being pitched/positioned, but that’s not “exactly” how it will work when consumers get their hands on it.
Let me be honest: like most interactive marketers, when I first read about this tech I felt like Steve Martin (in “The Jerk”) when the new phone books showed up. My mind was swimming with possibilities – I mean, think about all the ways we could use AR to provide real value to consumers. Think of the amazing experiences we could create! Then, I talked to our Senior Software Engineer who unceremoniously brought me back down to earth with a “thud”. The problem, as it turns out, is not with the software that’s being developed (as I firmly believe that companys like Layar deserve a serious “hat-tip” for pushing the industry forward) but with the hardware (i.e. the phones) that consumers will be running these technologies on. The fact is the hardware just isn’t accurate enough to deliver on the types of precise experiences that are being showcased/promised in videos around the net. Here are the two primary reasons:
THE GPS – No matter what handset you’re using, we aren’t dealing with military grade GPS. The fact is, even in the best conditions (please note the word “best”), civilian GPS is accurate up to 50 feet. With that in mind we spent the other day playing with Layar on a Google G1 (note: the phone’s hardware is not Google’s but HTC’s) to see what we were dealing with, and we noticed something. Typically we experienced a GPS accuracy level of somewhere between 100 to 250 feet. Now, remember, that could go 250 feet to the left, right, forward, or backwards… So really, the device was telling us that the piece of data that was overlaid on the phone’s screen was somewhere within a 31,400 square foot (if accuracy was 100 feet) to 196,250 square foot (if accuracy was 250 feet) area. That means you won’t be able to swing your phone around an Internet café and match a tweet with a face. In fact, you can’t even safely assume that the person whose tweets you’re reading is even in the café with you (not to mention you may feel a touch silly in an internet café holding up your phone and spinning around anyways, but that’s a conversation for another day).
THE IPHONE 3GS’ COMPASS – As of right now you can’t get AR apps on the iPhone but that’s going to change next month. So we should probably discuss this now as the the new phone’s compass will be a major component of most GPS related executions. Let’s check out the screenshot below. Do you see that “V” coming out from the user’s location? That “V” indicates that they are facing somewhere within those parameters. So, if the device doesn’t know exactly where you’re facing, how can you tell if the real estate data you’re looking at is actually for the house you’re viewing through your phone’s camera? Not to mention that as you get farther away, the margin of error increases. So that subway station you think you’re walking towards… it could actually end up being three blocks over and two blocks up. And that’s just what you want when wandering around New York right? A nice game of “hot or cold”.
At the end of the day, if the hardware can’t accurately tell: where you are, where the data that’s being overlaid is anchored, or where you’re facing… how reliable and useful an experience can you possibly have?
Now, you may be thinking that those two inaccuracies noted above aren’t that bad. Certainly, when you’re driving a car you never really noticed any issues with your GPS, right? Here’s the thing, an exit ramp being a couple hundred feet off is not a big deal. Between the street signs, the fact that there’s only one ramp in the area, and your speed, you just don’t notice the inaccuracies. But, if you’re going to overlay data on a precise location (e.g. real estate information about a house, or information about a city’s historical landmarks) via a phone’s video screen, those inaccuracies make a huge difference in the consumer experience. And here’s the corker, if at the end of the day the data isn’t accurate/reliable why will consumers use it (outside of that initial “this is cool/different” moment that one has the first time they try it)? So, I guess the real question is why would a consumer continue to use it?
Now, don’t get me wrong; my hope is that there are developers out there that are seeing this technology and having an “A-ha!” moment. I’d love it if some fantastic and useful apps get built even with the hardware’s limitations. I’m starting to doubt that it will happen given what I’ve been discussing, but a guy can always hope right? All I’m trying to do today is manage your expectations, because the experiences that are being promised are not what you’re going to experience when you get the application in your hands.
So, enough blabbering out of me, what do you think?
As a child, growing up in suburban Washington D.C., I can remember some of the rules we were taught to avoid predators. Sure, there are the obvious ones like don’t talk to strangers, but there were also the less obvious ones (at least to me as a child) like “don’t wear jerseys or athletic jackets with your name on it, because predators could pretend to know you.” Predators, it seemed, were everywhere and they wanted to do terrible terrible things to me. Then the news came out that statistically, a predator is most likely to already know the child (and vice versa). Thanks to my neurotic family, I grew up fearing everyone.
As I watched social networking take hold (in particular Twitter), and people become more and more comfortable with putting essentially their entire lives online, my old neurosis started to twitch a bit. But what about the predators? Of course, MySpace and Facebook have a documented history of working to keep registered Sex Offenders off their networks. Sadly though, I think that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
The first time my radar seriously went up, was a few months back when @SuzyWelch (author and wife of former Super-CEO Jack Welch) tweeted about where she and Jack were going that night. Mind you, for Twitter, that type of content is very much in the “norm”. Now, perhaps the fact that I had recently seen a Discovery Channel show (or maybe it was on National Geographic) about how successful executives are targets for kidnappers influenced my immediate thinking. Or, perhaps it was because the last six movies in my Netflix queue had been Die-Hard-esque type action movies. None the less, my immediate thought was: wow, that is some risky behavior. Since then, I’ve always been somewhat amazed that there hasn’t been a Twitter related tragedy. I mean, if 30 million or so people use the site, statistically, some of them have to be d-bags.
Then, this week, two things caught my eye that point towards the fact that the d-bags are starting to feel safe, and starting to get active. The first, was an article on Mashable about a man who tweeted that he was leaving town on vacation, and also tweeted details during his trip. When he came back, his house had been burglarized (or is it “burgled”?). Coincidence? Potentially, but still… it should be enough to give you pause. The second example, I watched unfold in my Twitter stream this morning. A woman I follow Tweeted about an upcoming trip to a city in Canada. Soon after, she evidently received a private direct message from a follower telling her that he wanted to “F@*k her” while she was in town. She didn’t actually know this person, not in the “real world”. And, her subsequent Tweets clearly articulated how violated she felt. She even cancelled her trip because of this guy’s douchery.
So, what’s the moral of this post? Should we all dump our social networking profiles? No, of course not. But the examples above should serve as a wake up call to all of us. Nearly all of us have been guilty of being too comfortable online, too trusting. Protect your info people. Be cognizant of who (potentially) has access to it, and what they can do with it if they have a predatory mindset. The items you tweet are out there, for public consumption. What additional information can people find out about you with a few strategic Google searches? Sadly, we all have to err on the side of caution these days. If your tweet gives you even a moments pause, just don’t send it. The technology is out there, and we can’t rely on the Twitters, Myspaces, and Facebooks to completely protect us. Quite simply, they can’t. There needs to be some personal responsibility.
So, what do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Mashable recently blogged about an updated version of Justin.tv that completely integrates MySpace, Facebook and Twitter across their website and more importantly, on their video pages. In a previous blog entry, we mentioned that real-time interactive video sites like Justin.tv and Ustream would be the next big thing in terms of integrating video and social media. In fact, Ustream has already taken this a step further with integration of Mobile, Video and Social Media on their recently released iPhone App.
It’s not a news flash that Interactive Video is poised to be the next huge growth area online and with YouTube’s recent move towards Premium content over User Generated Content these real-time social video communitiesshould see even more explosive growth. The new social video sites allow both a one-to-one and one-to-many interaction that happens in real time. Factor in the ability to go mobile with social video and you then have the ability to broadcast anytime, anywhere and to anyone you choose. That is powerful.
We Are Organized Chaos (WAOC) is Zugara’s (www.zugara.com) interactive marketing and advertising blog where we’ll be featuring some great projects and discussing upcoming trends in the digital world. Work — good and bad — will be critiqued. Hope you’ll enjoy reading our insights and thoughts on interactive.