November 27, 2009

Augmented November

Augemented reality shows no sign of going away anytime soon. This month has seen a number of brands using the technique to different degrees of success. Esquire Magazine made the biggest noise with their AR cover.

It generated a lot of debate and although impressive to see did require the download of special software. That’s a major barrier. But as print magazines face serious issues (no pun intended) they are looking for new ways to attract an audience. This Mashable blog post from the end of last month explains Esquire’s strategy.

Meanwhile, at Disney Orlando the toy store took AR in an interesting direction by providing an in-store screen allowing kids to hold up Lego boxes and see what their model would look like in 3D.

OK, this didn’t appear in November but caught my attention this month. After sharing it on the Blogilvy site one reader made this interesting comment.

“We were in Orlando for vacation a couple of weeks ago. Spent 3+ hours in the Lego store looking at EVERYTHING. The reaction of my son (7yo) to the 3D screens was “Daddy, I’d rather look at the box. You can see more from the pictures than you can on the screen”. it reminded me of the old line – just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you should do it”.

A light-speed trip to France reveals that McDonalds are offering an augmented reality game for kids via their Star Wars themed Happy Meal.


On his blog, Nick Burcher provides a few screen shots and a description of the promo. So far I haven’t found a video of the game play. If anyone finds one please let me know.

Using a webcam and screen as an augmented mirror of reality is one way to use the technique but we are seeing more uses for mobile devices. This AR Firefighter game for the iPhone 3Gs uses the phone camera as a viewfinder then overlays (rather ugly) graphics. Personally I don’t like it but there definitely is potential for the right brand and audience.

Done well, augmented reality can create a lot of buzz. But just like flash mob videos, there comes a point where you just don’t want to see another one. Will this happen to AR? Some articles are very optimistic about the technology. report that AR will be worth US$732 million by 2014. But today things fall out of fashion faster than ever (did someone say Second Life?) so let’s just watch and see.

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