Will Augmented Reality Be a New Form of Mass Communication?

At the PRINT 13 Conference this month, Julie Shaffer of Printing Industries of America, discussed some of the technologies that will go beyond QR codes to make print more engaging and interactive. She started out the presentation listing seven forms of mass communications that have evolved since the Gutenberg printing press was invented:

  • Printing – (Late 1400s)
  • Recordings (1870s)
  • Cinema (Early 1900s)
  • Radio (Early 1900s)
  • TV (1950s)
  • Internet  (1990s)
  • Mobile smartphones and tablets (2000s)

Julie then suggested that this decade might see the rise of an eighth form of mass media: Augmented Reality (AR).

MetaioAugRealityCarManul.bmpAn augmented reality app on your smartphone can turn a printed ad, sign, or package into a portal to additional video, audio, or textual content. For example: See a poster advertising a concert by a new band, then use your smartphone to hear a sample of their music. Or, see a package for a new toy, then use your smartphone to watch a video of children using the toy.

After hearing Julie’s prediction, I have been looking for additional examples to support her claims. It didn’t take long to find some because it turns out that the InsideAR 2013 Conference is coming up. October 10-11 in Munich, Germany.

Some of the topics that experts will discuss at the InsideAR Conference include:

  • How Augmented Reality and Print Bridge the Physical/Digital Divide
  • Case Studies in Augmented Reality Marketing
  • How Augmented Reality is Affecting the Retail Experience.
  • The Future of AR and Wearable Computing

MetaioAugRealityCarManul2At the Inside AR Conference, Metaio will show a prototype for a hands-free interactive car manual for use with Google Glass and other wearable viewing devices. The interactive car manual might make it easier for the average person to perform some routine maintenance on their own vehicles.

Earlier this year, Metaio worked with McDonald’s Germany to develop the “McMission” AR app. The app takes a playful approach to educating restaurant visitors about McDonald’s commitment to sustainability. The app consists of four “missions” that teach kids about renewable energy, recycling, waste disposal, and product origins. The games are launched by scanning printed items such as a McDonald’s box of French fries or images in McDonald’s “Sustainability Report.”


In her presentation at PRINT 13, Julie Shaffer showed some examples of the different ways that Nellymoser is making print more interactive with mobile-activated campaigns. While some campaigns require prints to include digital watermarks, QR codes, or NFC (near-field communications) codes, augmented reality can be used with any photograph or printed image without altering the prepress process. . 

It seems to me that a lot of creativity will be required to make sure that customers are delighted (not disappointed) by the additional content they access through smartphones. (Otherwise, why bother “augmenting” printed materials at all?)

But once we all start wearing computing devices that don’t even require us to lift a smartphone, it’s easy to imagine that we might expect to see augmented reality everywhere we look.

What do you think? Have you seen any particularly creative applications of augmented reality that make printed pieces more interesting? more meaningful? more useful? 


McMission AR App

Inside AR 2013 Conference




Metaio Develops Augmented Reality for Google Glass

You Tube: McDonald’s McMission Augmented Reality App



Print Publication Enhanced with Augmented Reality

DESIGNERS. A previous post mentioned that one of the sessions at the PRINT13 conference Sept. 8-12 in Chicago will describe new ways to make print publications more interactive. Here’s a great example of a publisher who is already making it happen.

The 2013 PYM Annual Guide produced by the organization Plan Your Meetings (PYM) includes augmented reality (AR). Plan Your Meetings is a free educational and social resource for people who plan corporate meetings and events.

Editorial and advertising pages in the 2013 PYM Annual Guide are encoded with interactive experiences such as downloadable PDFs and videos, social media call-to-actions, and additional educational content. Readers can view the interactive content by scanning coded pages with the free PYM+ app can be downloaded to Apple or Android smartphones or tablets.

Here’s how it works: When readers of the PYM guide see an ad for a hotel that interests them, then can use the PYM+ app to download meeting room schematics, take a virtual tour of the facility, and book rooms. They don’t have to visit a website, or even turn the page.

Advertisers are intrigued by the ability to track how many people interact with their ads each month.

“They say print is dead, but that was before it could talk back and tell you who was reading it,” says PYM’s Vice President of Creative Kristi Casey Sanders. “Now advertisers can see how people engage with their print ads. By encoding SKUs in augmented content, they can identify how much traffic they’re receiving from print channels while interacting with our readers.”

Sanders will teach meeting and event organizers how to use augmented reality at the PlannerTech event Aug. 13 and the PYM LIVE event Aug. 22 in New York.

“Plan Your Meetings has a long history of developing innovative ways to connect people,” Sanders says. “Using augmented reality not only allows us to bring added value and ROI to our advertisers, it gives us the opportunity to provide additional educational content and educate planners using an emerging technology that has many exciting event applications.”

Both the print and digital editions of the annual guide include the augmented-reality content. In a blog post on the PYM website, Sanders notes that “Once an image is linked to augmented content, that content is activated whenever the image is scanned, no matter in which media it appears. So, the same image on a brochure, name tag, magazine, YouTube video, webpage, email, park bench, or billboard would trigger the same experience.”


Plan Your Meetings

Issu: Digital Edition of Plan Your Meetings Annual Guide with Augmented Reality

Blog Post by Kristi Casey Sanders:  What is Augmented Reality? What does it mean for you?

Photographer Uses Aurasma to Bring Still Photos to Life

PHOTOGRAPHERS. Have you heard people talking about Aurasma yet? You will soon—particularly when ad agency, editorial, and marketing clients start asking you to shoot videos along with your stills.

Aurasma is free “augmented reality” platform that can be built into apps for higher powered Android devices, newer-generation iPhones, and iPad2 devices.  Aurasma-equipped apps can then blend still images with rich, interactive content such as videos and animations.

For example, when you point your mobile device at a print ad in a magazine, bus shelter, or retail store, the ad will transform itself into an interactive video. Aurasma can be used to create “auras” for printed images, product packaging, instructional manuals, clothing, and physical places.

One professional photographer who has incorporated Aurasma into an app is Sam Robinson who provides photography and filmmaking services for commercial and editorial projects.

He says that when he first saw Aurasma demonstrated, he was completely bowled over: “This technology is a completely new medium that dissolves all of the boundaries between photography and film.”

A Visual Browser

The Aurasma “visual-browser” platform was developed by the British software company Autonomy, which is now an HP company.  Since being launched in 2011, Aurasma has been downloaded more than 2 million times. Aurasma is being used by publishers, advertisers, and visual communications professionals in fields such as retail, sports, automotive, and consumer electronics.

The Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau (HVCB) used Aurasma technology as part of a month-long print campaign in a Chicago commuter-train station. John Monahan, president and CEO of the HVCB, said, “Bringing one-dimensional images to life puts commuters as close to being in Hawaii as possible in a compelling way,”

How Photographers Can Use Aurasma

Sam Robinson is using Aurasma to add a new dimension to the stills he includes in his postcard mailings to prospective clients.  Clients who want to learn more about Robinson’s work can download the free Sam Robinson Photography App, point it to a still image on the postcard, and instantly see videos that are linked to the still photo.

Sometimes clients will see behind-the-scenes video of a particular shoot or examples of the video footage Robinson shot along with the still photos planned for use in a print ad campaign.


Aurasma App from Sam Robinson on Vimeo.

Tamas Szabo, of the app-development company Megatomi, said incorporating Aurasma into Robinson’s app was intuitive and user-friendly: “With just two lines of code, we were able to integrate Aurasma into the existing app. From start to finish, it took just a few hours and the result is incredible.”

“Building Aurasma into my app seemed to make total sense,” says Robinson.  “The demand for multi-channel campaigns is growing, and Aurasma’s Developer Studio lets me bring together my stills and film work for the first time. I’m completely hooked.”

Martina King, managing director of Aurasma, believes the creative possibilities are just beginning to be explored: “We’re working with some of the world’s largest corporations, but we’re also working with internationally renowned creatives such as Sam Robinson. Artists, photographers, filmmakers, animators, designers—the creative industries instinctively understand Aurasma’s potential and are using our free technology to push the boundaries and change the way people see and interact with the world.”



Sam Robinson Photography App

Sam Robinson Photography

App Developer: Megatomi

New Screen Technologies May Change Computer Usage

After attending a recent Display Technologies Conference sponsored by the market-research firm DisplaySearch, technology PR expert Andy Marken sent me an interesting paper entitled, “It’s Not About the Personal Device, It’s About the Personal Content.” In the white paper, he summarized some of the predictions made at the conference and observes that continuing advances in screen technologies may ultimately change how we use computers.

And, he wonders if seeing these advanced screen technologies in movies and TV shows such as “Minority Report,” “NCIS:LA” and “Hawaii Five-O” will help speed mainstream adoption. Here’s a quck rundown of predictions Marken came up with, based upon presentations from the analysts and developers who attended the display technology conference.

Computing power won’t disappear, but will continue to evolve.
Marken writes that, “The IBM PC that recently marked its 30th anniversary looks Stone Age next to our tablet system and smartphone. In another 30 years, even these marvels will join the ranks of memorabilia at the Computer Museum.”

Evolution of Computers from IBM PC to iPad to Unknown

He believes today’s hugely popular tablets and smartphones are just waypoints along the road: “In 30 years, you’ll wonder why you even carried them with you to get your information, news, data, and entertainment.”

The computer as we know it will fade away.
“Why do you need a personal device when cloud computing, cloud storage and virtual computing are here?” asks Marken. The smart network is rapidly rising and an Internet layer protocol called IPv6 has been rolled out globally.

“In its simplest terms, IPv6 is an Internet layer protocol for providing end-to-end datagram transmission across multiple IP networks.” writes Marken. What this means is that: “You’ll have your own phone number (ID) and the network will be smart enough to know where you are so your communications—written, video, audio—can be routed to the nearest enabled device – your car, TV, shopping cart display, fast food digital sign, watch, clock radio, you name it.”

If you start to wonder if technology might be moving too fast, Marken cites statistics that suggest the rate of change will only speed up: “Intel estimates that over the next four years, there will be 2 to 3 billion Internet users (approaching half of the world population). And, there will be more than 15 billion (Internet) connected devices.”

He predicts that as chip sizes continue to shrink and become increasingly complex, we’ll see a healthy mixture of general-purpose and specialty processors that use less and less power to perform more and more tasks: “It probably shouldn’t be too hard for the chip folks to put the- CPU, GPU, video, encryption, baseband and other operations in something so small it will work in anything, everything.” Increasingly, the devices are all connected over the wireless mesh networks to larger and larger “systems” that manage content traffic and store personal information as well as company and general information.

Information will be personalized.
Today, people want to control their own information gathering. Interactive display signage kiosks such as the one shown below are an important step in meeting the consumer’s wants/needs. The kiosks allow you to ask questions tailored to your wants and needs and then recommend which products might right for you. These types of kiosks will eliminate the need for the traditional sales clerk. If the kiosks can help you make good buying decisions, the theory is that you will be a more satisfied customer.

Interactive Display Signage from BrightSign“Semi-intelligent signage is already being used around the globe to enable consumers to view and learn more about products and determine which ones they want to purchase,” Marken points out. Some of the more advanced systems even have a virtual mode that shows you wearing or using the product.

Displays will help you make decisions on the go.
A subway-system display island that enables you to use your smartphone to make an instant purchase and have the products delivered to your home is a logical first step. “Consumers will go to a 3D interactive digital sign, make a selection, ‘try it on,’ make the purchase and be on their way. It sure beats shopping with the wife.” writes Marken.

A rudimentary alternative is already being tested in South Korea by HomePlus, one of the country’s largest retailers. It lets you shop at display areas and use your smartphone to scan a barcode to place an order which is delivered to your home. One reason this technology is being tested in South Korea is because by the end of this year, almost half of the 49 million residents of South Korea will have smartphones.

Subway Display Island in South Korea from HomePlus Retail

The next steps will be to view the product on digital signage anywhere in 3D, virtually try it on or work with it, and purchase it using your personal ID. Your personal ID could be a scan of the iris of your eyes, a thumbpint, or automatic facial-recognition.

Screens are changing…rapidly.
“A lot of folks say the industry is trying too hard and people just don’t want 3D TV and a bunch of dumb glasses.” say Marken. But he predicts that “In five years, you’ll wonder why people said 3D TV would never take off. You won’t remember being entertained in 2D. Until then, sit back, live with it, enjoy it.”

3D TV screen by Panasonic

Although quality 3D content is woefully lacking, and few people like wearing the glasses, these issues are likely to get resolved sooner than we might think. Based on what he learned at the trade show, Marken predicts that as interactive 3D screen technology continues to improve, the demand will grow, and eventually, “They’ll not only be in your family room but everywhere you go.”

Touch screens will also become more ubiquitous. Marken notes that on almost every new system you interact with, you expect to simply tap the screen a few times and get the information you want: “Watch a little kid come up to your notebook and watch them instinctively try to enlarge or shrink pictures with their fingers. Only your TV is a passive screen, but that too will change.”

At the DisplaySearch-sponsored conference, analysts predicted that LCD displays will grow at a compound annual rate of 39 percent through 2014 and there will be screen technologies to keep us entertained everywhere, all the time. Soon, you won’t even think twice about walking past large interactive signs.

“We’re already comfortable digital signage, and just expect it to present information and images in a clean, crisp form,” says Marken. “The use of static printed signs in stores, restaurants, entertainment venues, educational and worship facilities, and businesses are rapidly being replaced with solutions that bring the information to life.”

What sparked all this enthusiasm about new screen technologies and the changing face of computing? Check out the video “A Day Made of Glass” made possible by Corning.

Because a glass company produced it, this video highlights the many different types of glass that will make advances in screen technology possible.

“The thing we noticed in the video is there is computer power everywhere but none of the ‘computers’ we’re used to interacting with today,” says Marken. “And it all looks and feels so natural, so logical. Your information is available to you wherever you are, when you want it…heck, it will probably be telling you before you ask. We’re just not sure who will be storing it all, and managing it all for us.”

Personally, I regard Andy Marken as a credible source. Like me, he’s watched how rapidly technology has evolved just over the past 30 years. We have both witnessed multiple incidents in which skeptics have initially scoffed at certain technologies only to see those same technologies gain widespread acceptance in five years or less.

The most recent example, of course, is the Apple iPad. Remember how it was initially dismissed as “just a larger version of the Apple iPod touch.” That’s one reason I agree with Andy’s assertion that 3D screens will gain widespread acceptance sooner than today’s skeptics might think.


VIDEO: A Day Made of Glass Made Possible by Corning

About Display Search

Emerging Displays Technologies Conference

Marken Communications


New artMatch App Lets Buyers Order Art from iPhones

ARTISTS. Art.com, Inc., a leading online provider of wall art, has introduced artMatch™ for the iPhone. The free app makes it easy for art lovers to find, explore, discover, share and purchase art right from their iPhones. After snapping a photo of any work of art, you can instantly search for matching or similar items on Art.com. You can also preview selected artwork in your own space by simply holding up your iPhone. The application is free and can be downloaded through Apple’s App Store.

“Art.com has one simple goal—to make art accessible to all—and our new artMatch application for the iPhone takes that one step further, making it easy and fun for people to engage with art wherever and whenever inspiration strikes,” said Geoffrey Martin, CEO of Art.com, Inc. “Imagine walking down the streets of your favorite city, spotting a work of art you love in a café, gallery or museum and being able to go on your phone, find that work on Art.com, frame it and have it waiting for you at home when you return.”

ArtMatch uses Art.com’s Visual Search™ technology. This makes it possible to:

Instantly find a work of art. Take a photo of a work of art, upload a photo from the phone, or enter a URL, and Art.com will instantly tell you whether it is available for sale on the site. If it’s not on Art.com, you will see similar works that are available on Art.com.

Browse the collection of more than one million works of art available through Art.com. The collection is conveniently presented in list, grid and single views optimized for viewing on the iPhone. Read information about each art piece and use the Super Zoom™ feature to examine brush strokes, texture, and other details of specific art pieces.

Visualize how the selected work of art would look in the room you have in mind. Simply hold up your phone to see the selected work in your own room or select from the gallery of rooms on Art.com.

Save your favorites to a gallery and share them with via email or Facebook. This feature can be useful if you want a second opinion before ordering art for a certain room in your house.

Purchase your pick right from the phone. The app’s integrated shopping cart can sync with your phone contacts for easy shipping to the selected destination. Your artwork arrives ready to hang on your wall. Learn more at www.art.com/iphone.

Art.com was founded in 1998 to make art accessible to all by transforming the way the world discovers, personalizes, shares and purchases art. Art.com, Inc. runs three sites in the USA—Art.com, AllPosters.com, and ArtistRising.com—and has a strong international presence with 25 local sites in Europe, Japan, Canada, Australia, Mexico, and South America. Art.com, Inc. is a privately held company headquartered in Emeryville, CA, with other facilities in Ohio, North Carolina and the Netherlands.


artMatch App

About Art.com



Tagwhat Augmented Reality App Tells Stories Behind Places

Here’s a new application of augmented reality. Tagwhat, a media company based in Boulder, Colorado, has a “Great Stories at Places” app that lets users of iPhones (3GS/4) and Android-using smartphones learn some of the stories behind places they visit.

Tagwhat Augmented Reality App for iPhoneFor example, on the steps of Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, you can watch Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream Speech.” Or, while touring San Francisco, you can see historic photos that show how different sites were devastated by the San Francisco Earthquake.

Tagwhat’s team of new media journalists and filmmakers worked with publishing partners such as the Associated Press (AP), the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and the Virginia Beach Public Library System to create and curate thousands rich-media stories that can “augment” your understanding and enjoyment of some of the places you visit.

Organized like TV channels, the stories pop up on top of real-life locations and change based on where you are looking. If a story is too good not to share, you can send a personalized, digital postcard to friends via Facebook, Twitter or email.

Tagwaht Digital Postcard from Great Stories at Places Augmented Reality App

Channels include: Heritage, Movies, Sports, Food, Nature, Music, and Art.

In the “Movies” channel, you can watch a clip of the parade from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” while walking down the same Chicago street. Or you can read about Woody Allen movie settings while touring New York.

Visitors to the LA Coliseum can tap into the “Sports” channel for a look back at the 1984 Summer Olympics with videos of gold medalists Mary Lou Retton and Carl Lewis.

In the “Music” channel you can hear Janis Joplin sing outside the Austin club where she got her start and see images of her preparing to perform.

A “Visit” feature lets you take a virtual trip to Tagwhat’s featured cities: New York; San Francisco; Los Angeles; Washington, DC; Chicago; Boulder, Colorado; Portland, Oregon; Austin, Texas; and Virginia Beach, Virginia. You can look around and interact with multimedia stories as if you were standing in that city!

Tagwhat is already seeded with thousands of stories, with new stories being added every day.


Will You Create the Killer App for Augmented Reality?

Cover of The 6Sight Report April 2011The March/April issue of the 6Sight Report focuses on the growing popularity of mobile imaging, and explains why smart phones provide the perfect combination of camera, display, processor, and connectivity technologies to bring augmented reality experiences to the masses.

The State of Mobile Imaging

The 6Sight Report leads off with Tony Henning’s excellent article on why camera phones are quickly replacing standalone digital cameras as the primary image-capture device used by consumers. He points out that camera phones have always enjoyed two distinct advantages: (1) You carry your phone with you everywhere you go; and (2) Your phone is always connected to family, friends, colleagues and the Internet.

When the first camera phones were introduced in 2000, they were abysmal picture-taking devices.  Yet, in just 10 years, more than 1 billion phones with cameras have been sold.

Yes, there have been rapid, across-the-board improvements in hardware and functionality. But people didn’t really start using the cameras in their smartphones until Apple introduced the iPhone with software that made the cameras easier and more fun to use. As Henning puts it, “Apple made it easy to find the camera function and take pictures, and made it delightful to view and share and interact with them…Suddenly, handset manufacturers were forced to rethink their convoluted, menu-driven interfaces and consider the user experience.”

He notes that since Apple introduced its App Store in 2008, more than 400,000 different apps have been made available, including more than 8,300 in the photography category.  Photography apps can extend the functionality of the camera, streamline uploads to social-networking sites, enable photo editing, let you send printed postcards or invitations from your phone, translate foreign languages, track your medical condition, show the caloric content of foods, read barcodes, and much more.

Augmented Reality on Your Camera Phone

When you see real-world information about tourist sights, movies, restaurants, and services superimposed over what you’re viewing in your camera, you’re experiencing “augmented reality”—images plus information.

The 6Sight Report features a transcript of the panel discussion on augmented reality that was held at the 2010 Future of Imaging Conference last November. Paul Worthington of the 6Sight Report conducted the discussion. Panelists included: Ivan Franco of Ydreams; Michelle Fallon of YOUReality3D; Greg Davis of Total Immersion; Noora Guldemond of Metaio; and Blair MacIntyre, director of the Augmented Environments Lab at the Georgia Institute of Technology

They noted that augmented reality has been used in industrial and commercial applications for several years, but the latest generations of camera phones have made it possible for everyone to start working with augmented reality.

“We still have to find that killer app,” emphasized Franco.

MacIntyre agreed, but believes it’s only a matter of time before someone comes up with a compelling application that will make the use of augmented reality take off. He notes that we couldn’t have imagined Facebook or Twitter of before they happened, and adds that “I don’t think we’ll know what AR is good for until the college student in the dorm figures out what people want, and creates the Facebook of mobile AR.”

Augmented Reality in Museums and Art

It’s always been fascinating to watch what happens when creative professionals start experimenting with new ways to use emerging forms of technology.

A recent NY Times article talked about how museums in New York, Los Angeles, and Europe are developing augmented reality apps that can help visitors better understand some of the exhibitions they are viewing. Some apps will encourage users to interact with the art in new ways.

An international artists’ collective known as Manifest.AR will be experimenting with emerging forms of augmented reality as “interventionist public art.” During the Boston Cyberarts Festival April 22 through May 8, they will be installing virtual objects and artworks in and around Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art.  Manifest.AR has previously participated in augmented-reality interventions at the Museum of Modern Art, the Statue of Liberty, the Venice Biennial, the White House, and the Pentagon.

Another group at the Cyberarts Festival will enable smartphone users to detect virtual alien invaders around Greenway Park, the Boston Children’s Museum and Cyberarts Central at Atlantic Wharf.