Are you ready to augment your reality?

The MIT Media Lab was swarming with activity on January 17th and 18th as it played host to the a very special conference event, “AR in Action”.   The event, which was conceived, organized and hosted by John Werner, took place over two days and was attended by nearly 1000 people.  Everyone in attendance was there with the purpose to to discuss, learn and share ideas, demo technology and talk through challenges faced by such a dramatic change in the experience of computing.

Those that were speaking and attending came from a myriad of industries and disciplines ranging from academics, hardware and software companies, content creators to early-adopter /consumer users.  

Augmented reality isn’t a new concept and has had some matter of footing since the first iPhone brought together the screen, GPS position and camera. The ability to composite digital information on top of the environment around you can be extremely powerful, however the technology hasn’t gained as much traction with end-users given the friction caused by the necessity to have AR-specific features in each and every individual application.

What became crystal clear at “AR in Action” is that this is changing, and changing fast. With devices like the META smartglasses, Microsoft HoloLens, and ODG R8 Smartglasses available for consumers to purchase, the wait is over.  Granted, it is still very early and these devices should really be considered commercial, yet intended for developers and experimentation.  

One of the event’s first speakers, Robert Scoble elaborated a bit on his prediction that Apple would be entering the marketplace aggressively in 2017 with a new iPhone that had spatial awareness and AR capabilities.

Representing the Agency innovation angle, I participated as a speaker and panelist.  Joining me on a panel to discuss our industry approach to augmented reality and what our clients are saying were Almighty’s Rob Griffin and BEAM’s Dave Batista.  

Photo Credit: John Werner

Later in the day I gave a talk where I honed in on what brands/large companies need AR hardware and software companies to do in order to help drive adoption and support them as they shift from the computing platforms of today to these next-generation devices.  Right now, companies need the AR industry to invest in supporting a shift of hardware and experience mindsets among users.  That said, there is another challenge that we see happening with VR right now.  And it’s about content.

Dave Meeker, VP Isobar US “The AR Content Challenge”

The content challenge for AR comes down to the simple fact that consumers aren’t going to adopt AR hardware without an amazing software experiences and great content.  With that, brands are not likely to invest in bringing forward content until there are enough hardware devices in the wild to make it worthwhile. It’s no different than what we’ve seen with other new hardware platforms, from the iPhone, Android and Windows Phone to set-top boxes and multi-purpose game systems.

On day two of the conference, Leigh Christie, manager of our NowLab’s and our R&D efforts into emerging technologies, had the opportunity to speak about our approach to content development and the strategy that we employ with many of our clients when they are taking the step forward into VR (and eventually AR).

At Isobar, we’ve invested a lot of time and resources into figuring out how we should best approach the inevitable platform shift. While we acknowledge that our strategy will to be refined on a continuous basis, we feel very confident that we are in a very good place to help lead our clients into this strange new world where voice and gesture start to become more prevalent and large bulky screens start to be replaced by head-mounted display or, as suggested by Scoble’s Apple rumor, transparent handheld devices.

Image Courtesy and Copyright, MediaPost.

Leigh centered his presentation around a 3-tiered approach to content, starting with the most complex, interactive experiences and high-end devices, and working down towards mass-scale and distribution. This certainly doesn’t mean that you only focus on high-end devices first and then make a call to reach the masses. But, in terms of planning for production, specifically the creation of content and the development of rich, interactive experiences inside of game engines like Unity and Unreal Engine, this strategy makes a lot of sense and will help us steer our clients in the right direction.

We have a lot to say about both VR and AR – from strategy through content creation, production pipeline, software development and ongoing optimization and how to best approach data-driven episodic content.  We are also working with the MIT Media Lab’s Fluid Interfaces group to pave the way for behavioral analytics inside of VR and AR experiences – helping us to understand how users interact with digital content on these new types of computing devices.

Want to know more? Reach out! We’d love to discuss things with you.