Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Augmented Reality - The Past, The Present and The Future

Augmented Reality or "AR" technology has a deep history, in fact about 27 Years in the Making... or is going back to the early 1960s when Morton Heilig, a cinematographer, who created a motorcycle simulator called "Sensorama" that gave the effects of the visuals, sound, vibration, and even the smell. One may even site during this time line that there were many different applications we called "Virtual Reality".

But unlike virtual reality, Augmented Reality does not create a simulation of reality. Instead, it takes a real object or space as the foundation and incorporates technologies that add contextual data to deepen a person’s understanding of the subject. Hmmmmm.... either way we are on the edge of many great uses and the slippery slope of "over-kill". The goal of augmented reality is to add information and meaning to a real object or place.

Either story helped in the evolution we are now seeing in new media worlds. Essentially, Augmented Reality allows for creators the means to layer data like audio, graphics, and animation over live video. The term was coined in 1992 by Tom Caudell while working for Boeing, where factory workers used "AR" to sort parts. it allowed workers to run wires and cables in complicated assembly of planes. Today, with video cameras in so many electronic devices, including the webcam on computers,  "AR" applications range from advertising to architecture and gaming to Papa John's pizza boxes. This month Esquire has taken advantage of the technology to a significant editorial scale. From cover to advertisers to editorial content.

Burger King recently used "AR" to continue its use of "new" technology in selling its burgers and other menu items. They with agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky have always stayed one step ahead of the technology curve. One can't forget the "Subservient Chicken" online campaign that had millions of viewers wondering "how". On the page, a man in a chicken costume performs a wide range of actions based on a user's input, showing pre-recorded footage and appearing like an interactive webcam. The site takes literally the advertising slogan "Get chicken just the way you like it". The site launched in April 2004 and still today gets traffic. The site was created for CP+B and BK by The Barbarian Group. "The guy in the suit was originally an actor, but he was claustrophobic in the suit, so he wouldn’t do it. And we had to use one of the costume’s designers... He would do about six moves and then we would have to fan him off because he would get so hot in the costume," says CP+B ECD Jeff Benjamin.

The recent BK effort has you place a one dollar bill in front of your webcam and you then watch you dollar become a value menu burger or reverse the bill and it becomes a chicken sandwich. Brilliance doesn't end there, within a few seconds your image then has the "Kings" mask appear and it will follow your every move.

In early June, the United States Postal Service introduced a "AR" application that is actually usable and not just a gimmick. In order to remain competitive and increase its strengthen on line to stimulate more use of the site and e-commerce sales, the USPS hired agency AKQA/DC and launched the "Virtual Box Simulator". The Virtual Box Simulator is one component of the current campaign, "A Simpler Way to Ship," and its objective is to leverage "AR" technology in a way that is practical for its clients.

It's a pretty simple concept, users print a small "Eagle" brand logo off the website, switch on their web cams and launch the Virtual Box Simulator. By placing the eagle in front of the webcam/screen a virtual box appears then allows the customer to hold an item up to their cameras and see whether it fits inside the box, which will move as the item moves. Varying degrees of box transparency can be selected, to see best what the item will look like inside the package; package options include Large Flat-Rate Box, Medium 2 Flat-Rate Box and Small Flat-Rate Box. Amazing!

So what will the future bring. Over the next few months we will see an overload of "gimmicky" and "for the sake of" ideas and concepts, but its really going to take some real forward thinkers to see its full potential.

Stay tuned.

Posted via web from anthony kalamut's posterous

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