Augmented Reality and the Future of the Internet Marketing
Ten years ago, most people couldn’t imagine that a new device genre would come along and revolutionize the way we get knowledge in real-time, entertain ourselves, and communicate to each other. At least to the point we couldn’t live without such a device. Today, over half of us own a smartphone, and the average owner spends an hour a day on the devices. Prior to 2010, tablets were a thing of novelty, but this year, tablet ownership has doubled from last year to a whopping 34% of Americans now owning a tablet device. Remember when Steve Jobs demonstrated the first iPhone in 2007 to a cheering crowd who couldn’t believe their eyes when seeing some of its features? Features that only six years later we take for granted that many of us use every day. Features like touch screen scrolling, applications, the ability to watch videos and movies anywhere we go. It wasn’t that long ago we lived without any of these new necessities.
AR Headsets: The Next Device We Won’t Be Able to Live Without
The point I’m getting at is that every so often, a new technology catches on and goes mainstream. The public picks it up and runs with it, developers improve it, and develop applications for it, and before you know it, a large chunk of the globe can’t imagine their lives without it. My prediction for the next such device is AR (Augmented Reality) headsets.
Augmented Reality Defined:
“A technology that superimposes a computer-generated image on a user’s view of the real world, thus providing a composite view.” -Google
AR Headsets Defined:
“A wearable computing device positioned directly in front of the user’s eye(s) that allows the display of augmented reality to be viewed by the wearer.” -Kyle (Me)
Google Glass is, in my opinion, the first serious attempt to bring this technology mainstream that has any chance of “sticking”. Glass was released in February of this year in an Explorer Version. The Explorer Version was available in limited supply for $1,500 to developers and researchers to purchase. The idea is to allow them to develop apps and explore commercial uses for the device, then fine tune it, and release a consumer version in 2014 for around $300. Glass (and most likely all first generation AR headsets) will connect to your smartphone via Bluetooth and function as an extension of your smartphone. Through this, it will connect to the internet and other apps on your phone.
AR Then & Now
The images that are seen by the user appear much further from their face than the eye piece actually sits. It projects it out in thin air in front of them. It’s the same concept as a fighter jet’s HUD (heads up display). The technology is already in use in some newer cars to display speed, time and navigation. Thus far the technology has been very limited in its applications. So what happens when hundreds of thousands of developers get their hands on it and a big company with a heavy following like Apple or Google get a hold of it? Things move along. Things happen.
In the near future, AR will be all around us. Right now, the first generation Google Glass may seem a bit ridiculous looking to those who first see it, but think about when Bluetooth headsets first came out! Not to mention, as these devices become more and more commercially viable, they will get leaner, smarter and more awesome looking. There’s already a company actively developing a contact lens version of this technology.
But… Why? This is Kinda Scary!
The main purpose of this technology is to give more access to information in an intuitive way, make our lives easier, and move into the ‘hive mind’ of the future. The internet has already changed the way we do everything, our access to information, and our collective consciousness. Imagine before the internet, looking for houses for sale in Paris, or trying to get the weather, at that very second in Shanghai, or notifying all of your friends in real time of a major life event. Right now we access that information by typing into our computers and devices, burying our faces in a screen. We can get any information we need on a moment’s notice. News travels instantly, and as a civilization, we are more aware of each other, and able to benefit from each other. AR brings the same information to us, only in our world, in a much more intuitive way that us humans are meant to access information. AR is just the internet growing up.
Naysayers and Security Concerns
Look, any technology poses its own concerns, and anything can be used for good or for evil. Don’t try to ask Matt Drudge, he’s got some kind of vendetta against Google Glass. It reminds me of those tin foil hatters in the past who voiced concerns about the internet, or even about mobile devices. Headsets are essentially a mobile device on your face.
The potential to abuse I think most people are concerned with are relating to the camera, and the potential to hack the device. Worst case scenario, in 10 years, 50% of the population wears headsets, and some hacker has the ability to hack into half of the public’s first person perspective and spy. Or people wearing a headset into a movie theater, or public restroom. Honestly, the same vulnerabilities are apparent in all mobile devices. At some point we need to embrace the future, or it will never come. If we had that fear mentality humans would never have even invented the internet, and Matt Drudge would be unemployed.
Another concern has been that we’ll all be zoned out all day long, into our augmented worlds, but if you ask me, this actually will allow us to be MORE social than awkwardly burying our faces in our mobile devices all day. In fact, a recent problem is kids getting hunch-backs from burying their faces into their devices! We can now look people in the eyes, and see the information we need overlayed in the real world. You tell me which one is better for the human experience.
AR Applications in Today’s World
Thanks to companies like Metaio, the concept of AR is already being used commercially. There are already AR apps for mobile devices, but they require you to hold up your phone or tablet to see the overlay. The next step is integrating such apps into headsets.
5 Awesome Augmented Reality Applications in Use Today
1. Lego Sales Kiosk – Shows an augmented reality version of the toy, built, on top of the box, so your kids can see what the toy would look like in 3d!
2. Ikea App– Lets you see any piece of furniture in YOUR HOUSE. Imagine how this can improve and change the home furnishings shopping experience.
3. Satellite AR – Lets you see satellites in the sky, where they’re at for real. Click on the satellite to see info, like date launch, who owns it, and what it does.
4. Word Lens – If you look at signs, menus, or any other text in a foreign language, this app translates on the fly, and superimposes the English version right in place of the foreign!
5. Zombies Everywhere – Play a game of killing zombies, but in your real world environment! It is just the beginning of AR gaming.
3 AR Uses in Tomorrow’s World
1. Facial Recognition Apps
Though Google doesn’t seem to like the idea of facial recognition being worked into their technology, it’s inevitable that this will be where the technology takes us. Privacy seems to be the biggest concern with this, however, in my opinion, I doubt the practice would become widely abused. How could it be? In Facebook, you can set your settings to not allow the general public to see your pictures. I foresee in the future, another Facebook setting might be to allow or disallow facial recognition of your images. So if you don’t want your face to be recognized, turn it off. Frankly, it is upsetting to me that privacy regulators are trying to stop us from moving into the future.
The governments of the world have tried to stop technology in the past, but the decentralized nature of the internet and technology will thankfully ensure that we move forward. Sooner or later, people who try to stop something give up, due to the starfish effect. Whether or not it violates Google’s TOS or not, if people want something, it will happen.
I can see a future when Facebook is tied in with this technology, and if you’ve enabled FR in your Facebook settings, someone could look at you and see your name, employer and latest status update pop up above your head. No more forgetting that guy at the office’s name. But facial recognition alone can have an overwhelming number of applications to make our lives easier.
Ideas of Facial Recognition AR Apps
OK here’s two idea freebies 😉
- Lie Detection App – (Fun) Look at someone and if they’re telling a lie, their nose grows in your eyes.
- Mood Detection App – (Fun) Look at someone, and determine if someone is happy, sad, mad, scared, etc. A 3d emoticon hovers over their head showing what mood they’re in.
2. Eye Tracking Apps
The most practical and commercial use I can think of for this is for advertising. We’re already seeing development of “pay-per-gaze” applications. Advertisers will be able to pay only for ads the user’s eye actually looked at, not just ads that were served up.
I foresee walking down the street, and seeing signs superimposed above stores, perhaps a sale, a coupon code, an animation, or commercial, playing right above the actual brick and mortar store.
3. Image Recognition Apps
Everything in your view will eventually be recognized by ever advancing software. Imagine a Wikipedia AR app that literally shows an informational stub of just about any item you look at. Imagine going shopping, and seamlessly seeing features of an item, or accessing online reviews of an item just from looking at it. Imagine how this technology can help with education. For example, engineering and mechanical training. You will be able to see what parts are called, where they go, and how they work, intuitively.
4. Geo Location Apps
Utilizing the GPS in your smartphone, in conjunction with image recognition, and the network of all GPS enabled smartphones, locations and even individuals could tag themselves with public information that could be accessed by your AR headset.
For example, let’s say you’re visiting Paris. You don’t speak French or have money for a guide. Does that stop you from enjoying the experience? Nay. Popular monuments and info attached to them could be easily highlighted and accessed. When it’s time for lunch, you can find a nice restaurant, and even watch the menu translate automatically. If you need to order, you just need to repeat the French that is spoken to you through your headset.
Another use I’ve had in mind for this is for individuals who want to tag themselves with public information. In the case of facial recognition not working due to being far away or not seeing one’s face, you could use the location of their smartphone to tag them with data.
Example: You are single and looking. You’re signed up on a popular dating site that also happens to have developed an “I’m available” app. You set your status to single and allow paid users of the dating site to see your geo-location.
Why is All This Important?
I’ll keep this part to the point. We as marketers need to start planning NOW for this new technology. Advertising, SEO, local business marketing, ecommerce, all of it, is going to change. There are new opportunities for making real money with this technology. Not only in marketing, but also in the development of applications for this technology. It’s just a matter of time before Apple unleashes a headset. Dare I predict… iEye?? 😉 As soon as a serious player releases an affordable, practical AR headset, everything in web marketing will change. We need to embrace this, and be in front of the curve. Start thinking of strategies to use this technology in whatever venue of marketing you’re involved in. Now go forth and make awesome things happen!