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Augmented reality, part two

I keep getting drawn back to the topic of augmented reality and how it might impact on marketing and communication. When I wrote my first post on the subject I was beginning to explore some examples of the technology. After a period of reflection, I’m left with two questions:

  1. How to describe it in layman’s terms
  2. What the applications to marketing/PR might be

For the first, I think I’m getting close. Get people to think about a physical object (reality) and data about it (or data about that data) that could exist online. These are the two core components.

Augmented reality is the technology that connects the two together. This technology has to do a number of things:

  • Provide the user with a way of capturing the object
  • Recognise the object
  • Search for the relevant data about the object
  • Display the data in a way that augments the physical representation

Let’s take the simple example of a painting in an art gallery:

  • User points device at painting
  • Software recognises the painting
  • Software searches for information about the painting or artist
  • Device displays data to user as an overlay on the image

So with description, let’s turn our attention to the applications for marketing and PR. The first question to ask is what the physical objects are. People, products, buildings, headlines, newspapers, etc. all spring immediately to mind. Now let’s think about the associated data. Profiles, reviews, comments, articles, sentiment, etc. all come into play. So augmented reality applications that can tell you whether a headline in a newspaper is positive or negative and what people are saying about it is not beyond the realms of possibility.

The key technology challenge is recognition, and this is where I expect to see developments in the future. I’m already imagining a world where every object – animate or inanimate – can be recognised (visually, aurally or otherwise) and given a unique identifier. If that happens, then the process of tagging information and looking it up becomes as straightforward as sending an email is today, opening up a whole new world of augmentation.