Augmented Reality: The Next Big Thing or a Springboard to Something Bigger?

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To stay on the cutting edge of social media, it is important for us to keep up with what new technologies are on the horizon and to keep an eye on the technologies which we believe might be the “next big thing” in social media. It was rumoured a few years ago that the next big thing for 2009-2010 would be Foursquare. While Foursquare has attracted a fair sized following, I would argue that Foursquare acted as a springboard to launch us into the new era of location-based marketing and applications. Similarly, there is a lot of buzz in the social media world that identifies Augmented Reality and Mobile Augmented Reality as the next big thing for social media for 2011-2012. But, I can’t help but ask myself if that will really be the case. Before determining my opinion, however, I felt that it was necessary to explore a bit more about Augmented Reality.

What is Augmented Reality?
Augmented Reality is defined as “a  type of virtual reality that combines real and imagined images in a real-time session” (PC Mag). AR has also been defined as “a term for a live direct or indirect view of a physical real-world environment whose elements are augmented by virtual computer-generated imagery” (Coolhunting). In plain English, this means that you can now use your cell phone camera to see things that aren’t physically there, but are placed there by digital/virtual markers. This could have some very positive implications for marketers who want to reach potential customers in the areas near their stores. It could also provide a great deal of added value to people who are already using location-based applications or are looking for deals, reviews or specific venues in a city.

How does it work?
So, how does augmented reality work? Since I’m not a technically gifted person, I looked around for some dynamic, visual explenations of how Augmented Reality works from a technical perspective. The best videos I found were by Common Craft and Hitlab who explain in pretty understandable terms how the technology behind AR really works.

It seems that there are several technologies involved and that there are lots of ways augmented reality can work. For Mobile Augmented Reality, the application on your cell phone reads a digital marker and is able to provide you with a secondary visual layer of information super-imposed over the actual reality. When AR is used with books or other physical objects, the objects usually has a card that transmits the information to your web camera or phone camera.

Will it catch on?
As you will notice from the videos above, it has taken a bit longer than expected for augmented reality to catch on . . . But, catch on it has! We are beginning to see Augmented Reality in cereal box toys, children’s books, mobile apps, zombie infested streets and location-based marketing. One of the most intriguing usages of AR that I found while researching the topic was the Axe Fallen Angels campaign. You may remember this ad from the Super Bowl featuring beautiful angels who fell from heaven because of the irresistible scent of Axe’s new body spray. What does this have to do with AR? Well, Axe brought their “fallen angels” to a train station via Augmented Reality.

People in the station could stand on the card which was stationary on the station floor and trigger the Augmented Reality on a screen above. While unsuspecting travelers watched, an “angel” falls and is within reach of people, but not quite close enough to touch. While I don’t intend to go out and buy Axe, I do believe that this is a very interesting example of what is possible with Augmented Reality in the next few years.

What do you think? Is AR here to stay or is it just a springboard for bigger and better technology in the near future? Will we be using AR for everything in a few years? Please share your opinions in the comments box below!

Thanks for reading!
Rebekah Bowen

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Angry Birds Head To RIO

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What happens when a rainbow of bright colors, some crazy birds, a  popular mobile game and a new blockbuster movie combine? You get a overwhelming promotional campaign that spans all social marketing platforms!

Here is a look at Angry Birds, Rio and Angry Birds Rio:

The Angry Birds mobile game reached a remarkable 42 million downloads in December 2010, and has remained the top grossing mobile game for ???? until it was recently dethroned by Smurfs’ Village. We even saw the results of what would happen if they tried to reach a peace treaty with the evil pigs in a YouTube video that earned 6,424,305 hits since it was uploaded on Nov. 21, 2010. In March, Angry Birds received a $42 million funding boost which will surely only increase the momentum behind this virally poplar game.

The newest version of Angry Birds, Angry BIrds Rio, was first introduced as part of the Super Bowl 2010 commercial for Rio the movie. The mobile game was a huge success, reaching 10 million downloads in just 10 days. The game stars many of the same characters shown in the likability chart below, as well as characters from the Rio movie.

Angry Birds Rio is a combination of Angry Birds and the new film Rio. Rio brought in a decent crowd at the box office, earning just over $10 million on it’s opening day yesterday. Hopes are that the movie will come in just shy of the $38.1 million earned by Rango earlier this year. The $90 million film stars Anne Hathaway, George Lopez and other popular stars in a 3-D animated comedy about the last pair of blue macaws and their fight for survival.

So, why I am I ranting on a bout rainbow colored birds? Sure they raised a good bit of money and are taking mobile gaming by storm, but what connects them to my usual posting about social media and technology? That would be their brave entrance into the world of augmented reality. Rio is changing the way we see cereal box toys with their first ever AR enabled toys to be distributed by Nestle in 26 million cereal boxes in 53 countries . The AR toy is a card which kids can hold up to a standard webcam, which allows them to interact with the Rio character Blu. It looks like a lot of fun and I fully intend to try to buy one so I can experiment with it. 🙂

Checking-In (part 1): What we’re looking for in our apps

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There’s been a lot of buzz lately about FourSquare, Facebook Places, Google latitude and other check-in applications; however, a recent report by the Pew Internet and American Life Project showed that only 4% of online adults use location-based services. This causes us to wonder who is using these applications, what they are using and how they are choosing which applications to use.

In a recent study by uTest, which surveyed 300 participant in 35 countries, researchers challanged participants to compare BrightKite, FourSquare and Gowalla. These first generation check-in apps have the same basic purposes, and the study allowed users to compare the three services across several important factors.

The results showed that overall, FourSquare is still king of the check-in, followed closely by Gowalla. The study also looked at which of these areas that users found most important when choosing which applications they would use. This can help application developers know what decisions to make about constructing applications to best suit their audience.

The need for ease-of-use was definitely the most important to geolocation application users. This is where Facebook rises to the top of the ladder. They are ranked the highest on ease-of-use which is the most important to application users, which gives them the edge over Gowalla and BrightKite. As geolocation applications undergo changes and begin to incorporate augmented reality and other technologies, it will be interesting to see if ease-of-use still stays at the top of the needs hierarchy.

To find out more about geolocation applications, check out the cool links I found by scanning the QR code below.

 

ShopKick combines Geolocation, Advertising & Social Good

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As you may know, I have a very string interest in supporting social causes. One way in which I like to do this is through the social cause geolocation application Causeworld. I was horribly saddened last week to log in and find out that the application is being fazed out. Never fear, however, because the owners of Causeworld have created what they believe will be a better more efficient application known as ShopKick. While your credits (i.e. Karma) don’t transfer over, you still have the chance to donate any final karma points you have to one your favorite causes. So, donate your final karmas and switch out the old app for the new ShopKick app, which is available for Android and many other platforms. You can see how the new application works in the video below.

Still skeptical about whether these apps are actually beneficial? Then, you should read the inspirational story of how funds raised by ShopKick/Causeworld helped out the American Humane Society to save dogs in a town only an hour from where I was raised in Georgia. Or, see the adorable students who got new laptops with funds from Causeworld karmas donated by users like me (and maybe you too!). I can’t explain to you the technicalities of how it works, but your Causeworld check-ins definetely helped out a great many people!

ShopKick also has the potential to beneficially affect people through check-ins, credits and donations. There’s a bit of a twist to this application though that wasn’t a primary component of Causeworld. ShopKick is an early attempt to use geolocation apps as on on-location marketing and advertising tool. The app is designed to recognize when you are near stores or when you enter shopping locations and deliver personalized deals and coupons for that store. Some of the big names who are collaborating with the application are Best Buy and Target.

This approach seems to be working according to a Mashable report that the six month old application has seen over 100 million check-ins. A story in Business Insider stated that the new application has 750,000 users, 10% of who check in every day! Mashable ranked ShopKick as one of the top ten apps to watch for 2011. (You may also note that another of my favorites, GetGlue, was even higher up the list at number 3!) The application also made Mashable’s list of 5 check-in apps to check-out. ShopKick seems to be on the forefront of a second generation of check-in applications which I believe will far outshine and outperform the first generation geolocation applications! I look forward to trying out ShopKick myself and to seeing how others adopt this new technology!