At-a-glance: Augmented Reality


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At-a-glance: Augmented Reality

  1. 1. a u g m e n t e d r e a l i t y … at a g l a n c e At imc², we understand that in the world of technology and digital marketing, trends can shift rather quickly. To help our clients stay on top of important industry trends, we believe speed sometimes precedes perfection, so we created these “At a Glance” articles. They allow us to quickly share information about trends and technology with the disclaimer that they should be considered “under construction” and not an end-to-end look at an emerging trend. What is Augmented Reality? Augmented Reality (AR) is a term to describe the real-time viewing of actual physical environments whose elements are merged with digital information to enhance the experience. More simply, AR typically uses a camera and screen to bring everyday objects to life, but to those unfamiliar with the concept, it may be helpful to actually experience it, as words alone don’t do justice to the experience. Start by seeing the GE Smart Grid come to life or by transforming yourself into a Transformers Autobot. AT A G L A N C E The uses of AR are growing, from assisting doctors during surgery, to uses across other categories, including real estate, video games, and entertainment. Most implementations of AR use combinations of cameras and reference points known as markers; however, more advanced custom systems leverage other technologies such as GPS devices, accelerometers (an increasingly popular device included in items such as cell phones and game controllers that detects and plots movement), and digital compasses to supplement the experience. Why Should I Consider Augmented Reality? Augmented Reality is an exciting, fast-growing technology that is gaining a lot of recognition and buzz. Leveraging AR for a brand could provide people new ways to interact with it and deepen the engagement. It provides marketers a fun new set of tools that they can use to interact with consumers in new and innovative ways. AR has been around for a while in items such as Google Maps and the NFL first down yellow line, among others, but its application for brands and marketing is just getting started. The technology is mature enough now that there is a real opportunity to bring consumer-centric implementations to market that complement brands and support their messages. What Options are Available? AR relies on markers such as shapes, outlines, and technical data such as GPS coordinates or digital compasses to align with the real-world elements to create the experience. Any of these elements are options to consider when creating an AR implementation and, more specifically, the type of marker will determine how and who creates the application based on the sophistication required. To date, most marketing-based AR applications have been experienced through a website using the participants’ Web camera and having the user hold the marker in front of the camera for recognition and interaction. An early example of this is the Julian Perretta “Ride My Star” experience. This example uses a Web camera and a printed marker, which involves a graphic with a black square around the outside and a unique image on the inside that is recognized and serves as a coordinates map for the digitally rendered 3-D layer. © 2009, imc2. All rights reserved.
  2. 2. 2 augmented reality The options available are virtually unlimited as the technologies and capabilities are continually AT A G L A N C E evolving at a rapid pace. Although most implementations of AR are visual eye candy, more functionality and innovations for interaction are available. One example of greater functionality is keyboard commands that control the digital element’s behavior or attributes. How Should I Choose? When trying to choose the best approach for AR, it is important to understand the reason why a brand imc2 would consider using it. In most cases, like any tactic, AR should be a component of a larger overall marketing strategy. An initial question that should be answered is, “Where will people want to interact with my brand using AR? Is it in their homes, at shopping malls or events, or will they actually interact with it at all?” When evaluating an AR initiative, take into consideration the fact that Web camera penetration on personal computers is low at around 20 percent, but camera-enabled cell phones is much higher and most reports show the number to be in the 90 percent and above range. With that said, since 2006, more than 50 percent of all PC laptops and 100 percent of all Mac laptops ship with embedded cameras. While the cost of a PC-based AR solution is much cheaper than a mobile approach, the results from a mobile implementation can be more engaging, have a wider audience, and allow more innovative ways for people to interact with a brand’s AR experience. Other Considerations Low-budget uses of AR are accomplished using open-source libraries such as ARToolKit, which requires a marker known as a black bounding box for recognition and orientation. These types of applications are typically created using Adobe Flash or Silverlight. Java components are used for things such as controlling the Web cam or microphone. Figure 1.1: Example marketer using ARToolKit Figure 1.2: Marker in use Marketers should be aware that implementations using the open-source ARToolKit are typically not high quality and there is no support for the software. This approach should only be used as a proof of concept or prototyping. Production-ready, high-quality content should be a strategic imperative or credibility could be lost with the consumer. © 2009, imc2. All rights reserved.
  3. 3. 3 augmented reality There are a few commercial companies with proprietary solutions that are distinguishing themselves as AT A G L A N C E clear leaders in technology and experience. Total Immersion, with its D’Fusion software, is currently the most experienced and cutting-edge when it comes to AR. Using a PC (or Mac) and Web camera setup, marketers can also leverage custom markers or algorithms such as facial recognition. The Transformers: We Are Autobots use of AR involves facial recognition to turn the user imc2 into a Transformer. As a result, there is no marker with a black border, as each individual’s face was mapped using their eyes, nose, mouth, and face shape so the program could accurately perform the transformation onscreen. Figure 1.3: Transformers Augmented Reality Facial Recognition Alternative uses of AR include using a camera-enabled mobile phone to interact with, or get more information from, the subjects in the camera. Posters and objects come alive when detected by the software, which delivers additional content and information. Because this use of AR is currently cutting edge, most examples are not yet capable of real-time interaction. However, development efforts for real-time applications are expected to be released in 2010. On a less marketing-related angle, startup company Layar and IBM with its Seer application are some of the major players leading mobile AR. Both companies are leveraging the Google Android mobile platform and have plans to implement recognition and tagging of everything on Earth. Imagine seeing all of the menu items of a restaurant just by taking a picture of the front of the store. Please contact us for more information or visit dallas new york city Philadelphia 12404 Park Central Drive, Suite 400 622 Third Avenue, 11th Floor 1100 E. Hector Street, Suite 100 Dallas, Texas 75251 New York, New York 10017 Conshohocken, Philadelphia 19428 214.224.1000 212.430.3200 610.729.1310 © 2009, imc2. All rights reserved.