By Michael Kerferl, CScout Japan
Augmented reality (AR) is a marketer’s dream, and it is about to hit home
As digital devices become a more integrated part of everyday life, we live much more of our social lives in digital spaces: writing blogs, sharing photos and generally linking to new information. What happens when we start to live our real-world lives through a digital filter?
Augmented reality (AR) is a step in this direction, and has been one of the more globally buzz-worthy technologies of the last year, particularly in the world of marketing.
Simply put, AR allows you to enhance your real world experience when viewed through a digital lens by adding supplementary information to what’s already there. For example, if you point your digital camera at Tokyo Tower you’ll see it on the LCD screen. Now imagine that your camera knows that you’re looking at Tokyo Tower, labels it as such on the screen, gives directions to get there, and then provides you with a discount coupon to take an elevator to the top.
For mobile phones, AR is useful as a way to hyperlink the physical world and leave digital graffiti unseen to the naked eye. Pointing your camera at a restaurant could show a history of customer reviews, while a street corner would reveal a graphic history of the buildings that once stood there throughout time. Most importantly, you are able to add your imprint as well.
Japanese company Tonchidot does just that with what they call “social tagging” through their yet-unreleased Sekai Camera (World Camera) application. Viewing the world through the iPhone’s screen brings up notes, pictures, links and other information to provide instant, relevant information. Museums and tourist spots can surely benefit from this, but Sekai Camera is talking about tagging the entire world!
Of course, what’s good Japanese innovation without a fun, animated component for the otaku lead-user crowd? Last summer saw the debut of “cyber figure” Aris from Geisha Tokyo, an animated maid character that lives on your computer. In this case, downloaded software recognizes the codes printed on a cube and assorted other materials and allows you to use them digitally through your webcam to interact with her. What looks like a card with black squares instantly becomes a teddy bear when viewed onscreen.
The marketing implications are immense, and AR is not just a gimmicky technology. While Japanese companies surely aren’t the first to jump onto the emerging trend, they’re doing some of the more original concepts and really taking it seriously. Our world will never look the same...at least not through our phones. JI