Emerging Experiences and Trends in 2010

I spoke to Omar L. Gallaga from austin360 blog right before my SXSW panel about emerging trends, including mobile, augmented reality, and social media, and he posted this interview on their blog; wanted to share a few PoV’s that I provided …

American-Statesman: As smartphones have gotten more popular, we’ve been hearing more and more about augmented reality. Can you explain to us what it actually is and how it’s being used?

Augmented Reality (AR) is the ability of combining digital and real-world aspects to provide a greater or enhanced experience. Traditionally, it’s layering a digital overlay on top of a video stream, think NFL first-down marker, or NASCAR car information. It is not new, but due to the recent penetration of web and mobile it has been getting greater buzz. It was originally coined in 1992, used in PCs in 1999, by Sony PS3 in 2007, but it wasn’t until 2009 when adopted by Flash and made available for the masses that it began to gain momentum.

NFL and NASCAR are basic examples of mainstream media using AR, but the true reach is when it’s more personal: enhance computer or phone video streams with digital layers triggered by either some market or symbol in the video, or GPS and compass information, or any data source that can be translated into personalized visualization that adds and provides value to the user. Traditional uses range from recognizing trading cards, to real-size mailing boxes, to visualizing how would your new TV look in your living room.

As smartphones have gotten more popular, mobile augmented reality still has not, but they’re setting the base bricks and platform to allow greater penetration in the future. Location awareness, compass, maps, user generated content, all contribute to greater and richer data sources that will allow for great digital and real world mashups. The best mobile apps right now are TwittARound, Layar, Nearest Tube, TAT Augmented ID, SREngine, and Wikitude AR Travel Guide.

What does the future of mobile marketing/advertising look like to you? Will we find it as intrusive as it sounds now or do you think most people will welcome more targeted location-based/personalized marketing?

The entire advertising arena is shifting to brand actively focusing on providing value, enabling actions or behaviors, or building connections, as opposed to traditional mass-media push advertising. More specifically on the mobile arena, there will be three types of advertising: branded applications, opt-in branded benefits, or ad networks that operate on top of free-mium applications … in all cases the user has to perceive value in order to engage.

In the more traditional scenario which is already happening, application developers opt not to charge for the application and distribute it for free, for exchange of placing an ad from a network into their app. Users do not have to pay, thus providing value or benefit, and advertisers get more eye balls due to the free application popularity. The degree of intrusion is solely determined by the developer, but it has not hit any blocks thus far; at the end, the success of the application will depend on the experience, which is a combination of usability, entertainment, and toleration of advertising.

In the new emerging space, some users will gladly opt-in to location based advertising if it’s targeted to their likes, needs, location, they can opt out at any point, and by opting in the advertiser actually helps them find what they want and provides discounts, rewards, or any loyalty incentive. Services such as foursquare are already proving this, but that’s only the beginning.

We already seem to be drowning in information from all directions — in what ways will companies cut through clutter to get their message out?

More information will be generated in 2010 than the history of human kind until 2009. The more user generated content is out there, the less brand generated content can be found. Brands will have to learn to relinquish control and that they can’t impose messages anymore. It’s not about getting the message out, it’s understanding digital behaviors, environments, and connections. Content and context strategy are more important than ever; it’s all about knowing who to target, when, how, why, providing relevant value, leveraging social circles and influence so spread that message.

Companies that understand social influence and leverage it properly, exponentially augment any of their advertising efforts. There are many tools to understand the digital conversation space, perform user research, benchmark online and offline activities, follow trends and patterns, and once brands understand what the conversations are, where do they take place, what’s the visibility, expectations, then they can decide how to leverage that chatter — not advertise — and get their message across.

Will social networks lose their effectiveness in connecting people with companies once the novelty wears off or will they evolve in new directions?

Social networks were never effective in connecting brands and consumers; no one wants to be friends with their butter, and even the cool brands that have millions of fans, have very little engagement. Brands are still learning how to provide value to online consumers; it’s not just setting up a Facebook page, it’s not just having a Twitter account; those social presences are being used as PR extensions, which does not even begin to leverage their true potential.

Social networks play a huge role into identifying the consumer cross-sites, cross-brands, even cross-channels. Players like Facebook will massively influence the eCRM capabilities for brands, fully integrate, and ease tracking online behavior to better understand the digital ecosystem of properties, apps, sites, networks, widgets, locations, and more.

When it comes to the future of augmented reality, what should we be most excited about?

Augmented Reality is currently pretty limited, mainly by technology: the processing power to superimpose digital elements on top of real time video captures by a webcam or mobile camera is not powerful enough to make it seamless and as integrated as we would wish. The need of the black and white symbol to activate the experience is intentionally designed due to its simplicity for the computer to recognize it and calculate the coordinates many times per second to achieve maximum digital integration. Any other object such as logos, faces, and complex real objects will be able to trigger AR in the future and that’s when AR will totally take off.

The future of AR will seamlessly integrate with the real world, and it all translates into better experience and better data sources. Depending on how far in the future, expect object, logos, and face recognition, environment based experiences, integration with video, sound, even odor. Transition from screens or glasses into projected displays or holograms if we look far enough.

Digital technology is advancing fast, integrating in every traditional aspect of our lives. Augmented reality will cease to be called that way once digital and analog are so seamlessly integrated that non-digital experiences will not make sense anymore. Same applies for social media by the way, and lots of terms we use today. Everything is social, everything is digital, why do we have to restate the obvious?

The original blog post can be found at the Austin 360 blog.