Augmented Reality provides brands with an engaging experience that merges both the digital and the real world. This 30 second video shows how a 3D animation on the product box enabled me to understand the assembled product.
Lego’s “Digital Box” Provides Customers with an Interactive 3D Digital Experience
This weekend, I went to the local Lego store here in Silicon Valley (Hillsdale) to see a practical version of Augmented Reality. I was previously briefed by Metaio, the technology vendor that empowers the software for the Augmented Reality kiosks called, Digital Box. This store, outfitted with a kiosk with a screen and webcam gives instructions on how to show the contents of any box assembled in real time. Not all of the boxes were equipped (I tried the Star Wars line with no available) but was able to grab this lego kit of a bus, hold it in front of the kiosk. You can see that the contents ‘assembled’ on the screen, and came to life as a pre-set animation, as I rotated the box, the virtual animation would move with it, giving the illusion that the bus was actually moving over the box.
Breakdown: “Kiosk” Style Augmented Reality
Accessing Augmented Reality experiences from a built in camera and screen at a physical location
Embryonic, this market has physical and software barriers, as well as low consumer awareness and adoption.
Increase customer engagement in store, increase intent to buy and reduce sales costs. An immediate opportunity is for retail, small business, tourism, and consumer packaged goods industries. Secondly, media, gaming, home and business design, and mobile industries should take note and investigate this space.
Consumers have limited awareness to AR space, and are unaware of the kiosks. Interaction is clunky and requires practice, graphics are effective –but not refined
Brands that deploy AR in 2010 will benefit from “cool” factor being an early adopter.
Expensive deployment to create animations, and put kiosks in all locations.
Innovative, but a victim of ‘shiny object’ syndrome as the business benefits aren’t directly indicated. Heavy overhead required to deploy hardware and software, as well as moderate learning curve for consumers. To truly become a mainstream channel, AR within stories should be accessed by mobile devices –not kiosks. Secondly, existing web content should be ‘linked’ to existing products that include additional videos, support, and consumer generated content. Brands that have complex consumer packaged goods should deploy in stores, or products that have an heavy education or support cost and can’t deploy in house sales or service folks.
Augmented Reality Not Ready For Primetime –Yet Promises Real World Engagement
The above matrix is just a breakdown of ‘Kiosk” style of Augmented reality, however let’s look at this space as a whole. This technology is in its infancy, the animations are still simple, don’t have a lot of interaction beyond rotation, and require moderate ability to line the product up directly with the web cam. Furthermore, there are barriers to entry as most people didn’t even know about this feature in the store till I showed them, and not every product was outfitted with the ability to display the interactions.
Despite the fact that this is an emerging technology with years ’till maturity, there are three major business opportunities:
Extending the web to the real world. Reusing existing digital marketing and support content (from the web) in the physical world will add mileage to marketing assets. Consumers can access related existing content such as brochure facts, customer reviews, or web based demos that already exist wherever they are, without looking for a URL. The camera lens will identify the product, then serve up the context information with a click of a button.
Greasing marketing and sales process. Creating an engaging experience with customers near point of sale reducing sales costs through sales aids or increasing interest. Animations and virtual experiences can be connected with any device from anywhere, triggering demos, how-to videos, or even 3D media that would entice a prospect to spend more time, or purchase the product. Essentially, this means a virtual sales person or guide could assist any consumer from anywhere at anytime.
Ubiquitous information with mobile devices. Aside from kiosks in stores, we should eventually expect mobile devices to be equipped with the capability to instantly bring up internet information about any product in real-time. Expect Google to develop a product that maps physical products with their online information, making them yet the middleman for internet advertising –again. Furthermore, it gets really interesting when a brand can ‘hijack’ another company’s brand by creating augmented reality experiences on the boxes of their competitors.
I recently spoke with Dave Elchoness of GoWeb3D who’s one of the early pioneers in the Augmented Reality (AR, but not to be confused with Analyst Relations) industry. In this above video he gives a demonstration of how information (often from the web) can be over layed on top of physical locations. Unlike Virtual Reality (like the now obscure Second Life) the barriers to entry are mobile devices, internet access, and utility can make this a reality.
Dave’s business GoWeb3D provides a data layer on top of the Dutch Layar browser (update: also see Wikitude “World Browser) which is available for some mobile platforms –iPhone is coming. This browser will allow developers to create data layers what will provide AR experiences. Users of this application can “drop” digital content such as blog posts, photos, videos, for their friends or customers who visit a specific location in real life.
[The promise of Augmented Reality is to provide existing internet content in physical context]
What types of business can benefit from Augmented Reality? Any retail or commercial entity with a physical space, any company that sells physical products, any company that does advertising in real life. Despite the promises the biggest challenges will be creating useful applications beyond the ‘cool’ factor. I’ve been using the Yelp “Monacle” feature, which is an interesting first generation –yet the data isn’t always accurate.
I’m still chalking this space as “to watch” as we should first expect growth to happen in the mobile social web first, let’s keep an eye on promising emerging technology as it quickly comes around.
Augmented Reality is certainly in it’s infancy, and we know that at best, is experimental. I’m new to this space but am watching, and learning from Robert Rice and Dave Elchoness to see how it develops. While a few years out, see the proposed Hype Cycle, let’s spend time thinking about what the future could hold.
I’m in intake mode. Over the last few weeks, I’ve watched as many augmented reality youtube clips as possible, reading blog posts (as there are no real articles yet from mainstream) and talking to smart folks. What I’ve noticed? Many videos are folks excited about the toys –yet with little reference to how it impacts business. I’ve also been experimenting with Yelp’s monocle, which is sub-par at best, it’s really early days. My biggest challenge? I’m in the wrong country. The innovation and adoption with these tools will come in Europe and Asia –not the tethered American market.
I found a few videos that are void of the “Shiny object” syndrome and focus on how this could improve people’s lives –or fulfill a meaningful business need, here’s three:
Above Video: Supplemental Information Added On Location.
Dutch company Layar appears to be one of the emerging platforms that enables data to be added to physical locations. It’s location specific and allows content to be shown through the display of a phone related to real estate, shopping, and healthcare. Add on a social layer (where are my friend, or should I know them?) and things could become more useful.
Above Video: Contextual Information While Reading Book, and On Location
This Italian video shows how virtual reality glasses (glasses are more fantasy than reality… yet) could be used to provide auxiliary content while reading books –or in real world as the character goes to those physical location and is able to get more information. Imagine if every book you read could provide supplemental information from the web or other digital devices. What if every example you read in Groundswell showed a YouTube video of each story –each executive who is mentioned shows their profile information powered by wikipedia, and pictures and speeches from flickr and YouTube. I’ll chalk this video up as certainly futuristic, but showing potential increase knowledge opportunities.
Above Video: Social Data and Contact Info Overlayed in Business Setting.
This future video created by Tat, doesn’t get into the business setting until half way the video, but shows how additional information can be seen in real life. An audience member can ‘scan’ the speaker, and get additional information about their presentations, contact info, and even rate them. Scanning around the table, I had a chuckle when you could see people’s “Mickey Mouse ears” of social site icons appear above their faces.
Early days –but interesting to watch.
It’s early days for the Augmented Reality space, yet that shouldn’t keep us aware of what’s going to emerge in the coming years. Expect innovation and adoption in Europe and Asia, with the US trailing behind. Early bridges will display data from existing web-data bases like Yelp, Facebook, Wikipedia, and review sites. Remember when some websites were not compatible with certain browsers, the AR space is also in it’s infancy as many applications don’t run on all mobile platforms and the data sources are limited.
Lastly, I’m considering hosting an event at our “Hangar” in San Mateo, CA to focus on the business potentials of mobile social networks and augmented reality. Perhaps in Q1, 2010. Let me know if you’d be interested in participating, leave a comment below.