Augmented Reality For Real

Creatives have a new tool in the brand technology toolbox. That tool is called augmented reality. Augmented reality (AR) combines real-world data like live video and the surrounding environment with computer-generated data like graphics, animation, and text. Over the past year, AR Companies like GE and Mini Cooper have been among the first to use AR in marketing campaigns and the marketing world has come up with yet another witty acronym for this practice–ARM, or Augmented Reality Marketing.

GE Plug Into the Smart Grid

The first ARM project that ‘made it big’ was GE’s Plug Into The Smart Grid.  GE uses a cutting-edge technology to show visitors that our power grid is in the dark ages and that new technologies like wind turbines and solar panels can help save money and the environment. Coincidentally, GE manufactures and sells wind turbines and solar panels.

GE calls their project ‘Smart Grid Augmented Reality’. Since most of us don’t know what that means they also refer to it as a ‘digital hologram of Smart Grid technology’ that ‘comes to life in your hands’.  Which we read as ’something really cool happens’.The first time I did it, it blew my mind. You can open the door to the Smart Grid by turning the marker and blowing into your mic makes the turbines spin faster. I won’t spoil the rest.

Branding wunderkind MINI Cooper also used augmented reality technology to create a fully interactive magazine ad. The ad was featured in German automotive magazines. Head over to the MINI AR site to check it out for yourself.  A little bit of German helps. Mac and Firefox lovers beware, only Explorer and Windows welcome. Ouch. You can also see how they did it here.

Chasing MINI is Citroen and their stylish C3 Picasso, a baby MPV.

Lego is also using AR in in-store kiosks to help consumers see exactly what’s in the box.

AR also allows us to transform into the legendary Optimus Prime for this Dreamworks/Paramount site for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.

With the development of an open source Flash framework for AR and the increasing use of webcams, I think we’ll be seeing a lot more of augmented reality marketing. But for now, ARM remains a tool for brand innovators and curious techies.

In Part II of Augmented Reality for Real, I’ll interview two ARM experts behind the technology.

Beth LaPierre is a Brand + Creative Strategist. When Beth is not helping build brands she’s on her snowboard, spray painting something, or drinking copious amounts of espresso. Follow Beth on Twitter.


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