Commentary

How Smartphone Sensors Will Change Mobile Advertising and Open the Door to Virtual Reality

In just five years, smartphones have transformed our lives. It’s hard to imagine how much they will change in the five years, but one thing is for sure: Publishers and advertisers have just begun to unlock all of the potential of what smartphones can do.

Our phones will become increasingly aware of their surroundings. And they will become platforms for rich media engagements, where we interact with 3D environments through gestures and movement. Believe it or not, much of the technology for making this happen is already sitting inside your phone. 

Your phone knows a lot about you

Many people don’t realize how smart their smartphones really are. Modern phones are packed with dozens of tiny sensors, some as thin as paper. Every year those sensors become smaller and more sophisticated.   

To begin with, your phone has three accelerometers for sensing gravity and tilt, a gyroscope to determine orientation. It has a compass for sensing direction, and several environmental sensors for measuring ambient air temperature and pressure, illumination, and humidity. There is also a proximity sensor for recognizing when you move your phone up to your face during a call and an ambient light sensor for boosting brightness levels in dark environments. The list goes on.

New sensors — and there are many — invite new possibilities. Apple’s iPhone 6 uses its barometer to track vertical movement. Chemists at MIT have developed a smartphone sensor that detects when food has gone bad. UV light sensors now being tested by ROHM may one day tell you when to wear sunscreen. What about detecting carbon monoxide levels or air quality? All of it is possible with the right sensor. 

VR brings new levels of creative engagement

A major field of innovation in smartphones will be VR. The phones of the future might look something like Oculus Rift meets iPhone, only without the clunky visuals. Instead, you’ll have a lightweight VR, practical for more casual everyday use. 

Lightweight VR won’t offer the full immersive experience of a headset, but you won’t need that either. What it offers instead is convenience. To use it, you simply extend your phone out in front of you like you are taking a selfie. When you look into the screen, you see another world. And when you move, the 3D image on the screen moves with you.

Lightweight VR has numerous practical applications. You can use it to navigate any type of complex space. Imagine the advantages to using interactive 3D to help you find your way through a confusing airport? A lightweight VR experience might guide you to your departure gate, the baggage claim, or a nearby restaurant if you have a long layover.

Additionally, lightweight VR will play an increasingly important role in how companies market their products. Instead of bombarding consumers with static ads, marketers can use VR to invite customers to engage in a experience. You can explore a vehicle, restaurant or hotel, or visit a faraway resort. VR can tell you volumes more about a place or even an object than a video or a high-res photo can.

Mobile VR comes with difficult challenges, however. To offer a natural, convincing experience, the user interface needs to be completely intuitive. Sensor data and machine learning will play a large part in making that possible. Sophisticated algorithms will enable your smartphone to calculate your precise movements so that the 3D image on your smartphone screen moves with you with a minimal amount of latency. 

Over the next few years, mobile VR will likely be developed to a greater extent. Your smartphone will get to know you and your habits like a close friend. Interactions between you and your phone will be smooth, natural and intuitive, and VR will be right there, ushering in a world of new experiences.

 

 

 

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