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Augmented reality (AR) could be the killer app mobile marketers have been looking for.

What is AR? Simple: the superimposing of computer-generated images or text on an image of the real world, as taken by the camera of a mobile phone.

A timely example of AR is the Wimbledon Seer app, which runs on Google's G1 smartphone. It gives anyone in the crowd at Wimbledon "the ability to superimpose additional data about the match onto the court when viewed through the camera's lens". This data includes match information, news feeds and the location of refreshment stands, restaurants, etc. in the stadium. The video below shows Wimbledon Seer in action.

Even if you're not a big fan of the mobile phone, it's hard to deny: this is pretty darn cool.

The operators of Wimbledon aren't alone in their use of AR. From Nike to the WWF China, a growing number of organizations are employing AR in their mobile marketing efforts. So is AR a game-changer for mobile marketers? Maybe.

AR makes great use of the features and characteristics of the modern mobile phone to create an experience that's uniquely suited to these portable devices. This experience is highly-interactive and highly-personal since the consumer's surroundings are incorporated into the experience.

But these things can be red herrings and some suggest that AR is more hype than substance. I disagree, but I do think that for brands to be successful, they can't assume that the use of AR will work wonders by itself.

Right now, AR campaigns can gain some traction simply because they're cool. But once the initial 'WOW factor' is gone and everyone is doing something with AR, brands will need to be far more thoughtful and strategic. The barriers to success will be higher for AR apps that are heavy on the sizzle but light on the steak.

That means that brands will need to think about utility, not just novelty. The good news: it looks like there will be no shortage of ways for AR to deliver that utility. The Wimbledon Seer app provides a good example of what AR can do and highlights why AR could become one of mobile's killer apps.

Photo credit: epredator via Flickr.

Patricio Robles

Published 23 June, 2009 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

2380 more posts from this author

Comments (2)

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Alec East

To be fair, Augmented Reality is a lot more than superimposing something on a picture but I get it for the purposes of your article; Motion Tracking & Virtual Reality are AR and used for a range of scenarios from Training to games. 

The thing is, Flash has had this feature for ages and enables some pretty cool effects - e.g.

http://drawlogic.com/2008/11/17/as3-augmented-reality-in-flash-and-papervision-3d-flartoolkit/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NK59Beq0Sew

It's also been used in retail:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gQBFaVfBi9w

.. and on the Nintendo DSI, Wii, Playstation etc etc, none of which have had a particularly game-changing impact - excuse the pun.

There are scenarios and campaigns where AR will be very useful and valid but, in my opinion, it's a big leap to go from a fairly established and niche feature that hasn't had much impact in the mainstream to a killer app, just because it's on a mobile device.

I'm happy to be proved wrong though ;)

about 7 years ago

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mobiThinking

Not sure if it’s the killer app, but AR really comes into it’s own on mobile. While out and about you see a bill board etc with marker on it point your phone at it and hey presto, the advertiser’s new product materialises magically on your screen.

There’s an interesting brief from The Hyperfactory (the people behind the Nike and Fanta campaigns) on how AR can be used by mobile marketers: http://www.mobithinking.com/white-papers/bring-your-mobile-campaign-life-virtually-insider-s-guide-augmented-reality

about 7 years ago

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