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Augment that Reality

Augment that Reality

Recently, a prestigious blog (no longer an oxymoron) on advertising questioned whether despite all the hubbub, Augmented Reality might just turn out to be another Second Life: a flash-in-the-pan fad that was explosively white-hot at its inception but quickly lost its lustre when it became apparent that no one was making use of it. Could Augmented Reality [AR] suffer the same fate? Before answering, let us delve first into what AR is all about, as well as look at some uses of the technology.

It might be deemed unfair to make a comparison between Second Life and AR, purely on the grounds that one is an application and one is a technology. The difficulty in sustaining use will be in ensuring a practical and enjoyable use of the technology, i.e. fun without being gimmicky (a la QR codes).

Augmented Reality in its simplest terms is a virtual representation of the real world through still image or video overlaid with aspects of digital content. This content could be in the form of an animation to help show off a product, or it could be imagery showing a location that has been ʻtaggedʼ. Currently AR can be viewed with a webcam or with smartphones such as phones using the Android OS or iPhone. One of the most prominent examples at the moment is Layar. It can tell you where your nearest tube stop is, what the price of the house youʼre standing in front of is, a Wiki for the gallery across the road, a Flickr photo or tweet made nearby. Does all this risk being a little too much to take in though?

There are some singularly fantastic executions that companies have been doing over the past year or so. GEʼs example was the first example that Zeitgeist saw and is beautiful in its simplicity, as well as being a great piece of PR for the conglomerateʼs smart grid that President Obama has recently been tubthumping.

Lego also produced something extraordinary, featuring an ʻexplodedʼ version of one of its products on the back of the box, which then fits together, neatly assembled. Anyone who has ever experienced
any trepidation upon opening the hood of their car will welcome BMWʼs foray into the world of AR. Another example that demonstrates the usefulness for such an application is the work that AKQA produced for the USPS. Last month, Esquire magazineʼs AR issue hit the shelves: “The cover, which will feature actor Robert Downey Jr., will emerge on the screen in 3D and feature flying text and images that animate based on how the magazine is positioned.”

Only time will tell; there could even yet be a future for QR codes. Exciting prospects and practical opportunities for AR abound; the technology will have to convert consumers quickly by being easy to use with very beneficial results. Second Life turned out to be pointless; they built it, people came, had a look around and left. Let us hope the same does not happen with Augmented Reality.

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