We're still digging this TED video of HoloLens and Kinect inventor Alex Kipman as he shares his vision for the age of holograms.
Of course, we haven't decided how much of this is overly staged to optimize for video capture (clearly it's mapped to the area he's working in here, and it remains to be seen if HoloLens will create the same effect in any space).
We're also amused by some of the hype involved (we're pretty sure a thousand years from now, even AR will be a distant memory, replaced by something that makes it seem antediluvian at best).
And yes, for some reason he had us thinking of Ernie & Bert playing around with an ancient form of augmented reality.
But Kipman's vision is compelling, especially given his work with Kinect, the motion-sensing technology that enables you to interact with AR elements through body movement.
One thing's for sure: We can't wait to see where it all goes in next decade—let alone the 990 years after that.
As I point out in a recent conversation with Charlie Kraus of Limelight networks, there's just one problem: None of these are actually VR. They're 360-degree videos.
True VR is (or will be) far immersive because these videos, while incredibly cool, are missing one key element: interactivity.
I'm not talking visual navigation. I'm talking about the ability to pick up an object. Crouch low or jump high. The ability to move in relation to the virtual environment.
True VR is more like a first-person video game, whether the environment is photo/video-realistic or clearly fantastical, as with video games.
While this current wave of "VR" is an important step in that direction, it's critical that we don't lose sight of the "Holodeck"-like vision on which VR is based.
The evolution of VR will bring us 360-movies and eventually, truly interactive VR—or even better, AR or "mixed reality," that brings fictitious dramas to life within real world environments—for the ultimate movie-going experience.
Dawn of Awesomeness
As blockbuster movie fans (myself included) gear up for this week's 3D IMAX release of "Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice," I found myself thinking about a conversation I had a while back with Steven Amato, co-founder of Omelet LA.
In this short clip (from a source interview for my book, THE ON-DEMAND BRAND), I ask Amato about the future of feature-length mixed reality experiences, and what it could also mean for brands using VR/AR to develop branded content in a world where you might not just sit inside that MINI in "Backwater"—but actually drive it. And where you don't just watch Batman & Superman clash with each other and their villains—you join them.
IIf Augmented Reality holds so much more promise than Virtual Reality, are investments in developing VR-specific devices like Oculus Rift just a waste of time and money—especially when mobile phones can be used for both AR and VR?
In the conclusion of my recent conversation with content delivery network (CDN) provider Limelight Networks' Charlie Kraus, we'll get answers to that question—and learn why when it comes to both AR and VR, it's voice that's the killer app.
It turns out the promise of virtual reality bites when compared to long-term prospects for augmented reality.
At least that’s according to research from Manatt Digital Media that estimates the market for VR-based solutions will account for only $30 billion of a total $150 billion combined AR/VR market by 2020.
But there’s always a “but,” right?
In this case, that “but” is followed by a question: How are we supposed to square Manatt’s research with seemingly contradictory estimates like those from Gartner, whose ever-popular Hype Cycle chart shows AR far behind VR—indeed, far behind even autonomous vehicles—in its advance toward true market traction?
Short answer: You can’t. And in my view, it’s VR’s fault.
A Virtual Conundrum
To get to what I mean, I went to Charlie Kraus, senior product marketing manager for Limelight Networks, which is a leading content delivery network (CDN) provider.
CDNs, of course, are used by carriers and others to deliver all that content you consume online—text, graphics, videos, games, music, etc.—with a high level of availability and performance.
As you might imagine, AR (content superimposed on the user's view of the physical world) and VR (content that immerses the user in a simulated world) can only be as good as the networks through which that content is delivered.
After all, if you think buffering at a key moment on “House of Cards” is innervating, just wait until you miss a critical turn as you make your way around an unfamiliar city using AR-based navigation, or find yourself frozen and subsequently fragged by opponents within VR gaming worlds, due to network congestion.
So while most of the focus is on manufacturers producing devices like Oculus Rift and app developers for more common devices such as iPhones, I figured content networks may have actual usage patterns from which to base projections.
In part one of this Q & A, I ask Kraus to spell out the differences between VR and AR for listeners who may be confused by the terms (and no wonder—look at this article out today that seems to equate the two), and why Limelight is especially bullish on AR.
Then I ask about what I see as a key problem with reconciling contradictory projections about adoption rates for both AR and VR.
Sure, AR seems pretty well defined. But VR is an entirely different matter.
Mobile is where it’s at again this year, though we quibble with its definition these days.
For instance, Facebook says nearly 80% of its ad revenue come from mobile advertising. But in our humble opinion, just because an ad is experienced on a mobile device doesn’t mean it’s “mobile.”
Small wonder then, that as in year’s past, most of our top pics for 2015 bring something more to “mobile” – by in fact, relating to place, or the specific capabilities or key functionality of the device in which they are consumed.
Here's 10 of our favorites from the year that was.
This wildly popular (and widely spoofed) holiday campaign from UK retailer John Lewis includes a mobile app featuring augmented reality that lets you point your phone toward the moon to unlock daily facts about each phase of the moon. There’s also a game in which the player has to avoid obstacles and collect power boosts to get a specific item up to the man on the moon.
Despite the fact that we're never ones to require any additional prompting to drink Coke Zero – we live on the stuff – this year’s “drinkable advertising” caught our notice. The campaign’s TV spots featured Coke Zero being poured from an onscreen bottle – before migrating to viewers’ mobile phone screens before transmogrifying into a coupon.
What’s not to love about the World Wild Life Fund’s “Last Selfie” promotion with Snapchat, which takes advantage of the fleeting, transient nature of Snapchat snaps with short ads that show just how quickly an endangered species can be wiped off the planet. Powerful, and perfect for the platform. In just its first week, consumers posted 40,000 tweets about the initiatives to 120 million timelines. And in just three days, WWF reached its fundraising target for the entire month.
This year, Guess's special mobile ad units enabled users to snap selfies and then “try on” sunglasses via augmented reality, complete with pointers on which styles work best for your face shape. The user takes or uploads a selfie, adjusts the placement, applies from a wide selection of sunglasses and can even share the image for feedback from far-flung friends via their social platforms. Add a "buy" button and this could be m-commerce magic instead of just promotion.
How do you get shoppers into store locations during the Easter season? Launch an augmented reality Egg Hunt for the chance to win store gift cards. Here’s a brick & mortar retailer (in Australia) that refused to shy away from mobile and instead embraced it to enhance the retail experience.
This summer, the online music streaming service rolled out a "Found Them First" microsite that lets users see which musicians the system knows they heard before the artists became megawatt sensations. Users can then build and share a playlist built on those early discoveries. In exchange, Spotify will offer them a new playlist with other new acts they might help “discover” as well.
MINI USA is big on short online films featuring its cars, so it made since that the brand would be among the first to take 360-degree video for a test drive. Two such films, “Backwater” and “Real Memories” are definitely worth a gander—and could mean big things for the road ahead.
Let’s face it: You’re not quite you when you’re hungry, are you? Which is why the latest installment of Snickers’ long-running "You're Not You" campaign includes a mobile app that enables consumers to create images related to their particular hunger symptoms and share them socially. The key isn’t to show off what kind of hungry you are, of course. It’s about calling out family and friends for acting “snippy,” “loopy,” “cranky,” “confused,” “spacey," or ... insert your own adjective here.
Yes, I’m still fixated on this VR initiative from Qantas, which enables you to go on a eight-minute, 360-degree virtual vacation to Hamilton Island. In fact, it was really hard to decide between this and our #1 pick this year. It is, after all, either instant justification for the VRevolution, or a sure sign of the Apocalypse. Once companies start producing VR content like this that lasts not minutes but for hours on end, the human race may just opt out of the “reality” part of the equation all together—at least when they aren’t physically going to these amazing locales.
Okay, there's rarely a moment when a large TV screen is much out of arms reach these days. So maybe this is the solution to a problem that few will ever face. But it's still hard not to dig the Pizza Hut Blockbuster Box - a pizza box that's also a movie projector. Throw in a cold one and this could be the best thing to happen to pizza since pepperoni.
Even Marty McFly knew augmented reality would be big this year.
As 1989’s "Back to the Future II" showed us, 2015 would find Live AR movie promotions for "Jaws 19" and teens and adults using AR-enabled goggles along the lines of Google Glass (if Google Glass looked like Google Cardboard).
Of course, with all the excitement around Oculus Rift and the aforementioned Cardboard, one could be forgiven for wondering if this is the year virtual reality (or VR, immersive experiences within virtual environments) overshadowed AR (which layers virtual elements over the physical world in front of you in what has been called "The Internet on Things).
It doesn’t help that there has indeed seemed to be a dearth of truly cool AR marketing initiatives this year, at least compared to 2014 and 2013.
But that doesn’t mean there weren’t some brands doing their best to capitalize on an emerging technology expected to eclipse VR with $120 billion of the total $150 billion AR/VR market by 2020, according to a recent report from Manatt Digital Media.
Among the more positive trends this year: A move beyond (just) promotional eye candy to showroom and retail sales tools and apps, as well as AR-enhanced commerce.
As AR ramps up for what will hopefully be a more promising year ahead, let's take a look at some of our favorites in AR-enabled marketing and advertising from 2015—at least so far—below.
What made your list? And what AR campaigns would you add to ours? Do share!
2015 TOP 10 BEST: AUGMENTED REALITY
10. AZEK: AR HOME IMPROVEMENT IPAD APP
What Ikea long ago started doing for interiors, exterior building products maker AZEK is doing for dealers and contractors trying to help clients make decisions for their home improvement projects. The AR Home Improvement App offers the ability to show prospects and customers how new pavers, patio finishes, porches, railings, and light fixtures will look when in situ (albeit on a representative home, not their own), save the visual, and even share it via social media. Built by Marxent Labs, the app is in use by 75% of all AZEK resellers, with 1,000 new downloads per month. Now that’s something to write home about.
9. MANOR PLUS: AR CATALOG
Also making a nod to Ikea's catalog playbook: Zurich’s Manor Plus Summer 2015 catalog, which featured AR elements that helped its merchandising come to life.
8. TOYS 'R US: 'TRUE MAGIC IN-STORE AR
How do you get shoppers into store locations during the Easter season? Launch an AR Egg Hunt for the chance to win store gift cards. Here’s a brick & mortar retailer that refused to shy away from mobile and instead embraced it to enhance the retail experience.
7. MICROSOFT HALOLENS: 'TRANSFORM YOUR WORLD'
Okay, this is cheating, since HoloLens isn’t even out yet. But it perfectly captures the value proposition for augmented reality. And it happens to top ADWEEK’s branded video charts just now. When I wrote about the future of augmented reality in my second book, THE ON-DEMAND BRAND, this is definitely the kind of thing I envisioned. Be sure to check out this gaming demo as well.
6. MINI USA: 'AR VISION'
We’re cheating again here, too, as this is conceptual marketing from MINI. Called Augmented Vision, this wearable AR concept will hypothetically be tied to the MINI Connected Infotainment platform, to “enhance the driving experience by seamlessly interconnecting applications inside and outside the vehicle while providing the driver with greater vision and increased safety.” Unlike the HoloLens demo, which is for an actual product, this concept is, as far as we know, still very much in development at BMW’s lab in Mountain View, California.
5. LEXUS & FERRARI SHOWROOM AR
Lexus has done some very cool work with augmented reality in years past. And Ferrari is, well, Ferrari. But a trend to note here is that, like Azek in its own category, these celebrated upscale to uber-luxury brands are now moving beyond AR promotions to include useful support tools sales people can use to give clientele a closer look at upcoming cars and to showcase automobile innovation. On another end of the automobile spectrum, look also at Hyundai’s new Virtual Owner’s Guide, which is designed for customers as part of the actual brand experience.
4. JOHN LEWIS: 'MAN ON THE MOON' AR APP
This Christmas TV spot from UK retailer John Lewis is going to instantly get you in the spirit of the season. It’s already the early favorite of the Holiday ad season internationally, inspiring a perhaps inevitable ‘Star Wars’ parody. And it also has its own mobile app, which includes, among other things, an AR feature that lets you hold your phone to the moon to view interesting factoids, or at John Lewis in-store posters and shopping bags to unlock free downloads at the retailer’s site.
3. UNIVERSAL STUDIOS: 'FURIOUS 7' LIVE AR DISPLAY
In the vein of great mobile AR apps like the special effects app from JJ Abrams’ production company Bad Robot, this live AR display enables you to watch yourself get killed by a falling car in front of friends and perfect strangers at the mall. Morbid as it may seem, it’d be hard for the target audience for the latest installment of the mega hit ‘Fast & Furious’ franchise to ignore. Kind of makes you wonder what a similar AR promotion for ‘San Andreas’ might have been like.
2. MICROSOFT: 'SUNSET OVERDRIVE' BUS SHELTERS
The whole AR-enabled bus shelter has been done before, but it still can’t help but draw you in—especially when it involves mutant monsters coming your way on the street in front of you. Still, as cool as this promo for the new Xbox game ‘Sunset Overdrive’ looks, the Overcharge Delirium XT energy drink it features sounds like it may be even more tempting than the game itself.
1. SNICKERS: 'HUNGER BAR'
You’re not quite you when you’re hungry, are you? Which is why Snickers rolled out this new installment of its long-running "You're Not You" campaign, which includes a mobile app that enables consumers to create images related to their particular hunger symptoms and share them socially. The key isn’t to show off what kind of hungry you are, of course, but in calling out family and friends for acting “snippy,” “loopy,” “cranky,” “confused,” “spacey," or ... insert your own adjective here.
BONUS CAMPAIGN: SEAGATE 'HOLIDAY SMOOCH BOOTH'
In the same vein as the Snickers ‘Hunger Bar’ campaign, this Holiday 2015 promotion from storage solutions provider Seagate enables you to snap a selfie or upload an image from your photo library, and then proceed to augment your reality (or somebody else’s) with holiday visuals (Santa hat, reindeer antlers, etc.) and send personalized seasons greetings. I’m biased, since I had input on this web app from Havas SF. But having developed promotions like this for other brands, I know it's an approach that can make for powerful experiential marketing.
Let's just say I was into the "Internet of Things" before it was much of "a thing" at all.
Never mind that a survey this year finds 87% of consumers say they've never heard the term. In my 2005 book BRANDING UNBOUND, I wrote extensively about the Internet of Things (or, IoT), and such coming innovations as "smart clothes" that would one day routinely monitor heart patients and alert doctors of impending heart attacks.
And intelligent homes, buildings and stores that will react to, and even predict, your every command—setting temperatures and lighting to your liking, and offering up goods and services based on your personal preferences.
Then there was the personalized content streamed direct to your car. Designer clothes that tell the washing machine, "don't wash me, I'm dry clean only." Medicines that warn users of dangerous interactions. Cars that get "upgrades" remotely via mobile software. And frozen dinners that tell the microwave oven how to cook them to perfection.
Nest, Tesla, Pandora, Proteus Digital Health's "smart pill," the Apple Watch and the Polo Tech Shirt notwithstanding, this world of pervasively interconnected services and solutions remains in its earliest stages. And yet, as far as the brand experience goes for these companies and others, it is beginning to create meaningful differentiation that is shaping consumer expectations with each new day.
When Tesla recently faced a recall nearly 30,000 Model S cars because of overheating issues with their wall chargers, the company was able to fix the issue by simply update the software in each care remotely, eliminating the problem without owners needing to go to their dealerships. What have other car brands have to compete with that?
While not quite proactively ordering new supplies, Amazon's Dash devices, WalMart's Hiku roll out this week, and Red Tomato Pizza's refrigerator magnets mean all you have to do is push a button or swipe an empty container to have laundry detergent, groceries (or piping hot Pepperoni Pizza) heading your way, without ever having to take out your mobile phone, activate an app and enter an order.
Netflix even recently released DIY instructions for building a push button that dims your lights, orders food, silences the phone and fires up Netflix queue.
Factor in product innovations—such as the Nike+ Running System (which runners found so compelling that the brand's already enviable share of the running shoe category skyrocketed from 48% to 61% in its first 36 months); Prada's continuing refinement of retail technologies (which identify what garments you pick up and instantly showcase runway video and accessories on the nearest store display); or new Johnnie Walker bottles that let you create personalized gifting experiences, and interact with brand promotions, using your mobile phone—and it's easy to see that brands that leverage IoT technologies stand to benefit mightily while those that don't may fall evermore behind.
Yet even big winners will need to tread carefully.
LIFE AS A POP-UP AD?
Even back in 2005, I warned that interconnected everything means you can run, but never truly hide.
Or, as techno-anthropologist Howard Rheingold tells me in the book, "A world in which you are connected infinitely is a world in which you are surveilled infinitely."
Yes, online ads and street side billboards that call out to you on a first name basis, offering exactly what you're looking for—even before you realize you're looking for it—will have their place. Much of this will seem quite magical—at rightly so. But brands and media partners must be careful to resist the temptation to personalize pitches to the point of creeping consumers out.
Or putting them in danger.
One need not look beyond recent news reports on automobile software systems being hacked from afar to understand personal information is not the only thing put at potential risk in this interconnected world.
As I write in the book, as marketers (and as consumers), you and I will face decisions our predecessors could never imagine about what is acceptable—perhaps even moral—when anything and everything is possible.
As brands we exist to serve our customers and their needs, not the other way around.
Ultimately, that may mean recognizing that consumers should be able to control how "smart" they want their "smart products"—and advertising aimed at selling them those products—to be.
Perhaps they even need control over deciding which "Things" (and the associated data) that they want to be part of this "Internet of" —to better serve them, in the ways they want to be served—even if that sometimes means less, instead of more, of what we hope to sell to them. Even while making what we do sell them more profitable.
The brands that get this balance just right will not only attract consumers. They'll gain their loyalty and their trust.
Perhaps that's where the true power of the IoT is waiting to be found.
READ MORE FROM THE '2015 MOBILE MARKETING PREDICTIONS—FROM 2005' SERIES:
Two years before the launch of Apple's iPhone, my book BRANDING UNBOUND ventured forward to explore the future of advertising, sales and the brand experience in the mobile age.
Excerpted in ADWEEK, the book generated a lot of attention for envisioning a world of games, music, video, shopping and more via the device in the hands of virtually every man, woman and child.
Looking back now, it's fun to see what I got right—and where I went laughably wrong.
SHOPPING FOR INSIGHTS FROM THE MOBILE FRONTIER
I recently found myself chuckling about how I predicted Apple would indeed create a mobile phone, and by 2010 potentially go onto become a MVNO - a mobile virtual network operator - piggybacking on say, AT&T's network to offer its own branded Apple mobile service.
Hey, playing marketing futurist isn't a certain proposition.
But long before you could name the topic and rest assured that "yes, there's an app for that," I wrote about the potential for m-wallets that enable you to purchase goods in physical world stores and have it charged to a prepaid account, a credit card, or as a debit on your phone bill. And I talked about how one day, we would walk into stores, scan product tags to place a purchase, and then simply walk out the door without ever digging for cash, swiping a card, writing a check—or ever again standing in line.
To be fair, a lot of this was already in its early stages in other countries and only seemed impossible (or improbable) in the US because of a lack of standards and interoperable mobile networks. But that day did indeed come, even if some of these capabilities are still in their early stages.
Looking ahead, I also write about how by 2015, services deployed over mobile networks will wake you up in the morning; deliver email; enable you to schedule and reschedule your day based on real-time traffic patterns, travel plans, unexpected meetings, and more. You'll buy plane tickets on the go. You'll call up news, entertainment, and shopping content—anywhere, anytime. And everyday consumers will gravitate toward solutions "that make their lives easier and help them do the things they already do easier and faster, whether it's staying in touch with friends, capturing life's moments, listening to music, or playing games."
For marketers, this would mean location-enabled, or place-based, personalized advertising that calls up "relevant offers based on personal buying behavior"—in-store or on the go.
To be sure, much of what I write about has yet to be realized—like product innovations such as RFID-like tags on frozen foods that tell the microwave oven how to cook them to perfection, or coffee machines that serve up the perfect brew based on instructions from tags placed on the bean packaging. But it is amazing to look back now at how so much of what seemed fantastic at the time has become part of our everyday lives.
That last part about product innovation is more about the Internet of Things, which I write about extensively in the book. We'll save that topic for a later installment in this series.
In the meantime, you might enjoy reading about what I got right and wrong on wearable technology (let's just say I was bullish on what Google Glass would one day seek to accomplish) and mobile advertising (I predicted the current state of mobile advertising, but thought it would progress to its next, far more powerful stage by now).
One thing is for sure: Here in the last few months of 2015, innovative retailers and pure-play digital competitors are using the mobile channel to actively reshape what it means to shop in the twenty-first century.
Which means if you're not already into mobile-enabled retailing, don't worry.
That's how Go2 Production's Adrian Scott puts it when comparing 3D projection mapping to most virtual and augmented reality experiences requiring mobile phones, Oculus Rift, Google Cardboard or other consumer devices to enjoy.
In the conclusion of my recent conversation with Scott, we talk about a 3D projection experience we developed for Seagate Technology's brand relaunch at CES this January.
Playing off the "data tile" elements of Seagate's new Living Logo (the world's first patent-pending brand identity), the experience (video at top) features the voice talent of William Lyman (narrator of "PBS Frontline"), as well as an original score from Alain Mayrand, who did orchestrations for the movies "Ender's Game" and "Elysium").
Be sure to check out the behind-the-scenes video, too (directly above).
And then listen to the finale of our audio interview, where you'll hear about some of the considerable challenges associated with trying to pull off a 3D projection like this in the middle of the day, in a very unconventional space—and about Scott's favorite 3D projection project ever.