Sci-Fi technology may impact your marketing sooner than you think

In the last few years, the physical and virtual worlds have been coming together in new and interesting ways. Virtual information can be overlaid on top of physical, real-time information, creating a mixed reality. “Augmented reality” (AR) is the broad term used to describe this blending. Some older examples are simpler in nature. For example, AR has been used in sports broadcasting, such as the comet-like tail of a hockey puck for NHL games, or the yellow first down line in football games.

AR in smart phones has the ability to utilize features that already exist on the phones including a camera, built-in GPS, solid-state compass, accelerometer (measures acceleration/shaking), and decent computing power. The technology of the phone can be used with downloaded apps to find the nearest public transit stop (London and NYC, among other major cities have apps that accomplish this), see restaurants near you (with reviews from Yelp!), or even find a pint of your favorite beer.

Your Favorite Beer?

Your Favorite Beer?.

AR has also been used with specific marketing purposes in mind. For their December 2009 issue, Esquire, used AR in an attempt to extend the shelf-life of a monthly magazine and provide added value. The magazine is used with a web cam and software that is downloaded from the magazine’s website. Throughout the issue there are different black and white square icon-like images. Each image uses an algorithm to trick the web cam into seeing (and projecting back) something other that what is actually on the magazine page. Consumers need to hold the magazine up to the camera for the experience to work. The square icons trigger different interactive scenes that are displayed on the computer monitor (which relates to the actual content on the magazine page). Some of the interactions change based on the direction in which the magazine is held, or even on the time of day, which also drives repeat visits. For more information, go to:



A good (non-phone) example of augmented reality (and a possible source for up-and-coming pool sharks) was developed by the RCVLab at Queen’s University and can be found on YouTube (if you don’t want to wait, skip ahead to 2:14). Cameras are used to interpret the physical space and show the line up of possible shots (by using basic geometry), as well as the trajectory of the balls once they’ve been hit. By mixing the physical space with the information of the computer, a real-time augmented reality training tool is created.

In the future, augmented reality can provide marketers a new way to differentiate themselves from their competitors, and also find a way to better integrate the virtual and real worlds. How is your company planning to use this tool as a draw to spark conversation, attract consumers, and win business?

Written by Kristin Mattera