What’s next? (II) | 互联网 2011 (II)

Augmented reality – use sparingly

I was having a chat with a colleague who mentioned that they’d heard augmented reality was the next big thing. I can understand the hyperbola over augmented reality, its a sexy technology which dazzles when you demo it. And it fits into other trends in entertainment that breaks down the fourth wall between the content and the audience such as the rise of 3D in films and computer games.

There is also a subtle difference between augmented reality and other technologies that look to jump the fourth wall: generally computer games and 3D visuals are a form of immersive escape-ism rather than being grounded in the present. This grounding in the present is the reason why Facebook was useful and went on to become sucessful and Second Life didn’t. My view is that augmented reality is a great creative tactic and some interesting work has already been done in both business-to-consumer and business-to-business marketing campaigns as part of an online big idea. From ethical pharmaceuticals and campaigns to fashion: for the right budget and client; the creative web opportunities abound.

However, therein lies the Achilles heel of augmented reality in that it is only as good as the creative and careful consideration needs to be given to the context of the usage. Augmented reality when used on mobile devices often hammers the battery life, partly because it also relies on locative data.

What we’re also seeing in many of these projects is that the audience tends to be consumers of the augmented reality experience; it is something that happens to them. But tools like Google’s SketchUp allow for the creation of potential user-generated augmented reality content in the same way that consumers are currently comfortable creating words, pictures, audio and video.

There also needs a clear call to action for measuring impact, at the moment agencies and their clients that have used augmented reality have generally been too focused on the ‘shiny shiny’ aspect of the technology and less on the business returns.

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Just media – drop the social