Don't act too surprised if, some time in the next year, you meet someone who explains that their business card isn't just a card; it's an agumented business card. You can see a collection and, at visualcard.me, you can even design your own, by adding a special marker to your card, which, once put in front of a webcam linked to the internet, will show not only your contact details but also a video or sound clip. Or pretty much anything you want.
It's not just business cards. London Fashion Week has tried them out too: little symbols that look like barcodes printed onto shirts, which, when viewed through a webcam, come to life. Benetton is using augmented reality for a campaign that kicked off last month, in which it is trying to find models from among the general population.
Augmented reality – AR, as it has quickly become known – has only recently become a phrase that trips easily off technologists' lips; yet we've been seeing versions of it for quite some time. The idea is straightforward enough: take a real-life scene, or (better) a video of a scene, and add some sort of explanatory data to it so that you can better understand what's going on, or who the people in the scene are, or how to get to where you want to go.
We find it interesting as an emerging technology, as not only does it offer strong entertainment value, but also practical value to make everyday tasks easier and more efficient for users.AR has applications from both desktop and mobile devices, both using the attached devices’ camera. It is a technology still in its infancy, but already is starting to see interesting and engaging applications arise.
A new augmented reality site from Hotels.com aims to drive bookings by offering 3-D virtual views of 10 U.S. cities. Visitors to the site are greeted by a 3-D model of “Smart,” a claymation spokes-character.
To experience the augmented reality experience, visitors use a sheet of paper with a glyph marker on it. They can hold the glyph up to their Webcams to display scenes from the cities and take part in local activities, from riding a mechanical bull in Denver to seeing fireworks explode in San Francisco. Watch a video here and learn more here.
2 MAGIC TEE
The world’s first AR kids’ clothing. The Magic Tee is an augmented reality T-shirt that comes to life on screen, giving kids the ability to catch raindrops, bring the sun out and make a rainbow by simply moving their arms. View a short video demonstration here. A savvy marketing idea that taps into an emerging technology by making clothing fun for both kids and parents. Kids will be entertained and parents can have a bragging point within their circle of friends.
3 LAS VEGAS
Vegas Reality, the city’s first dedicated AR application, merges real Vegas with virtual Vegas for a multidimensional experience of its hotels, restaurants and attractions. While strolling The Strip, point your iPhone at resorts and casinos and watch as information automatically appears as floating text on your screen, using your phone’s camera and GPS services:
• Virtually jump inside your favorite resort to learn about its shows, nightclubs, restaurants and more
• Easily buy tickets and book reservations with one touch
• Access property’s real-time Twitter feed for deals and events
• Select “fun facts” for info and videos sharing famous (and infamous) moments in Vegas history
• Explore CityCenter’s public Fine Art Collection, including artist bios and facts about each piece
Learn more here.
Use your Webcam and our Virtual Box Simulator to project box holograms onto the image from your camera. Then, compare the size of the real stuff you want to ship to the size of the virtual box on your screen. See a video of how the application works here and launch the application here.
5 MUSEUM OF LONDON
StreetMuseum overlays 400 years of historic images on today’s city streets. StreetMuseum makes creative use of Google Maps and geo-tagging to show users how London used to look. You can use it to check out pictures and info about nearby historic locations, which has the feel of a straightforward walking tour. Learn more here.
6 SEAN KINGSTON
The website for recording artist Sean Kingston now has a section called “Virtual Sean.” Users print off the AR code, hold it up to their Webcam and then have Sean appear. There are different dance moves that you can make Virtual Sean perform and if you have a microphone you can join him in a karaoke version of “Fire Burning.” There is then the opportunity to record your AR Sean Kingston video, upload it to the Virtual Sean gallery and share it with your friends on Facebook, MySpace or Twitter. Learn more here.
Walmart is quietly running a 10-store trial of a cosmetics system called the Walmart virtual mirror that uses a barcode reader and a digital camera for the virtual application of makeup. What’s interesting are the ROI benefits beyond mere increased sales, such as reduced shrink (no need to throw out lipstick after a test), better availability of product and some natural social-shopping benefits via e-mail.
The customer looks into the camera and takes a picture of herself and then scans the barcodes to virtually apply various makeup products to her face. After the customer’s selections are made and applied, the image is saved and e-mailed to her.
A company called ThinkAnApp has made the first augmented reality tattoo. The tattoo’s design is simply a square barcode marker on the skin, but when seen through a Webcam an animated flying dragon appears to be hovering over the box. ThinkAnApp developed the software that recognizes a barcode on a curved surface (like your body), making the flying dragon overlay possible. See a video here
Adidas is looking to revolutionize the gaming industry with a new line of footwear, the Adidas Augmented Reality Pack line of footwear. These aren’t just any ordinary sneakers, these are the keys to the virtual world.
Users pull the tongue of the sneaker, which has a code on embedded in it. They point the code to their Webcam, and a virtual world appears on the computer screen. With the help of the shoe users zoom in and out, navigate and control the depth of view of the virtual world, which gives it a 3-D view. As the shoes’ movements are decoded into the virtual world, it allows the shoes to act as the gaming controller for playing games. Learn more here.
10 STELLA ARTOIS
Stella Artois has introduced an AR app for iPhone 3GS users that allows Stella fans craving a freshly tapped pour to get their drink on. The Stella Artois Le Bar Guide layers the closest Stella-carrying bars onto an iPhone camera view. When users click on a location, the bar’s information shows up, along with a map of the area. In addition, users can rate each location, leave comments or reviews for others to see, and, for those nights when getting behind the wheel is unthinkable, even call cabs using the app. See a video here.
Ray-Ban launched a new feature on their website called “Virtual mirror” that allows users to “try on” and play with Ray-Ban’s latest styles when visiting www.ray-ban.com. Using any Webcam, customers can transform their screen into a magic mirror to see themselves in the latest styles.
12 3-D EDITABLE AUGMENTED REALITY APP
This app allows users to add, edit and animate 3-D objects within their mobile device’s view of reality. Then the photos can be shared via social networks.
The video examples are fun (putting a dinosaur near the Golden Gate Bridge, putting a pumpkin in the hands of a coffee shop visitor) The app also has “traditional” AR features including providing information about locations and finding restaurants. Learn more here and here.
Introduced in June 2009, the Layar mobile app bills itself as “the world’s first augmented reality app.” It’s a platform that makes sets of data viewable on top of the viewfinder of your mobile phone as you pan around a city and point at buildings. Real estate, banking and restaurant search companies already have created layers of information available on the platform. Watch a video here and learn more here.
Designer Mike Clare has taken the AR phenomenon to a new level with these DIY cookies that can be digitally viewed. The cookies are made with standard dough in two colors making it possible to create a small grid for coding. The final cookies come out of the oven ready to eat. However once viewed through a digital camera they have a completely new life as AR markers. In this case, Clare added a simple colorful asterisk on top, kind of like digital icing. Learn more here
15 SOCIAL SHOPPER
The Webcam Social Shopper offers users a way to try on clothes online from the comfort of their own bedroom. It uses a Webcam, detecting where the user is standing in a room and adjusting the position of the overlain clothing appropriately. Even better: Instead of having to return to their keyboard and mouse to try on a new outfit, users simply move their arms above their head to navigate through the various clothing options. Watch a video here and learn more here.
16 THE HOME DEPOT
The Home Depot introduced an augmented reality gift card. Here’s how it works: Buy an interactive 3-D gift card. Turn your Webcam on. Visit The Home Depot’s AR microsite. Launch the application by choosing the dollar amount listed on your gift card. Present the black and white tracker to your camera and start shaking the card to discover what kinds of wonderful items you can afford. See a video here and learn more here.
17 POP-UP BOOKS
Pop-up books were always our favorite bedtime reading as kids, but this augmented reality program makes those flimsy cardboard cutouts look antique by enabling users to create original interactive pop-ups. All that’s needed to create a 3-D storybook is a Webcam and an Internet connection. The 3-D books can then be viewed online or in the palm of your hand by printing out the ZooBurst AR marker from the site. See a video here and learn more here.
To launch its PS furniture collection, IKEA used an augmented-reality application (featuring eight pieces of furniture) that lets users see how furniture pieces would look in their homes.
Consumers launch the application and with their device’s camera they can virtually see a piece of the furniture in their home. The furniture is superimposed on top of the room viewed through the camera. Furniture pieces are scaled to size so that the proportions of the piece are not distorted. The application lets consumers use keys on the handset to move the piece of furniture in different directions. Learn more here and here.
Tripwolf’s version of augmented reality throws in around half a million points of interest from its existing content platform onto the app. When a user opens up the Tripwolf app they will see markers indicating attractions, sights, restaurants and hotels live on-screen using the Apple’s on-board camera. Watch a video here and learn more here.
20 LONDON UNDERGROUND
Nearest Tube was one of the first augmented reality apps to go live in the iPhone AppStore. Forget boring 2-D tube maps. This amazing application tells Londoners where their nearest tube station is via their iPhones’ video function.
When you load the app, holding it flat, all 13 lines of the London underground are displayed in colored arrows. By tilting the phone upward, you will see information on the nearest stations: what direction they are in relation to your location, how many kilometers and miles away they are and what tube lines they are on. If you continue to tilt the phone upward, you will see stations farther away, as stacked icons. Watch a video here
Augmented reality really picks up where virtual reality left off, but without the bulky glasses, headphones or other haptic feedback devices.
AR feels like it will fall into the categories of entertainment and information, the latter being used as a mash-up of existing information resources to produce things like three-dimensional maps, store locators, travel guides, etc. On the entertainment side, opportunity in the gaming, music and video space feels unlimited.
Marketing opportunities in the AR space are wide open. Some brands have started dipping their toes into the water to explore the possibilities. Other brands will learn from these initial experiences and the savvy ones will create engaging content that consumers covet.
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