Getting Real About Augmented Reality

It’s been a long time since I’ve sat through a presentation where one of our creatives didn’t eagerly show an augmented reality extension of their idea. And my response is typically the same; sheer joy over the promise of doing something technologically immersive followed by confusion and mild depression over the prospect of consumers holding a piece of cardboard in front of their computer so that… Oooh, a two-dimensional character can become three-dimensional. It always reminds me of that scene in Big where Tom Hanks is looking at one of the toy prototypes and says, “So, it’s a robot that turns into a building— what’s so fun about that?”

In my mind, the reality of augmented reality in 2010 is that it’s a technology with very few compelling applications.

However, a company called Total Immersion is making some pretty big strides to change this. I witnessed a presentation from them a couple weeks ago, the most interesting part of which highlighted an innovative face tracking technology. In short, the camera in the subject’s computer locks onto their eye line, allowing the advertiser to then place a mask of sorts over their image that will turn and rotate perfectly with the motions of their head.

This first demonstration of this technology was for an eyeglass company called Atol. Thanks to the face tracking capability, you can virtually model multiple pairs of glasses and basically look at yourself in a mirror from both head-on and profile perspectives without ever leaving your home.

Another fun application was for the Iron Man 2 film, where kids could essentially robotize themselves.

Hopefully, before long, the rest of augmented reality technology will improve to the point where it’s more integral to most marketing campaigns and less of a bell/whistle.

Until then, I’ll be waiting for the Pirates Of The Caribbean marketing team to use this face tracking technology to show me what I’d look like with an eye patch.

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