Just An Online Minute... Augmented Reality: The Heidi Montag Of New Media?

New York: Media Information Exchange Group Panel, Samsung Experience, New York
January 21, 2009

I can't believe I am energized from a 7:30 a.m. panel. But I guess that's what augmented reality does to you. It began painfully, as the L train decided to make like molasses and meander down its route today, followed by crunchy, tiny sweet breakfast pastries, and then jackhammered home by a booming Robert Downey Jr. exploding from Esquire magazine. I can certainly think of worse ways than in the company of Robert Downey Jr. to begin my day, and that's about when the coffee kicked in. So why is an augmented reality panel better than a 5 Hour Energy shot? Well, show me your QR code and I'll show you mine...

I walked in while David Curcurcito, Creative Director at Esquire, was showing off the pub's augmented reality issue. Perfect kickoff fodder to showcase the interactive movement (turn the magazine and the content moves with you or launches new content), the personal feel (hey, Robert Downey Jr. is talking to me! In my computer! Lemme grab him! *pinch pinch*), and the open door to marketing possibilities and advertising dollars (at the end, Downey Jr. plugged "Sherlock Holmes"). It was, to quote panelist Adam Broitman, ringleader at, "really effing cool."

It's cool. It's sexy. It's different. It's something you can show Grandma , and she'll shoot Geritol out of her nose in amazement. But is it just something we'll ogle at like a reality TV star with a hacked up face? Or something with staying power like, uh, Wilford Brimley. 

Curcurito, who admittedly doesn't understand the technical knitting behind it but loves the creative opportunity it opens up for art directors, thinks "this is not a gimmick... It's about added value, added content, more content." There was unanimous agreement on the definition and promise of augmented reality, which is fine; this wasn't promoted as a debate.

The meat comes out of the grinder, though, when the honesty begins. "This is probably going to piss people off," began Broitman with a deep breath, "but... All of the augmented reality apps on the iPhone just suck." A man who is, and I quote, "not negative, I'm just sensationalist," Broitman was quick to give appreciation to brands like Yelp, whose monocle app helped pave the way and also teach future developers about human experience. Explained Doug Dimon, Creative Director/Broadcast Design at Creative Bubble/NYC, "The less odd you look walking around, the more useable it is."

Ponytailed David Polinchock, former Chief Experience Officer (CXO) at the Brand Experience Lab, donked the marketing crowd with his reality hammer, recognizing that while technology has caught up, what with everyone having computers and webcams, "sadly in the advertising industry it's probably just a fad, like everything in the advertising industry." And he wasn't being jerky - it's true, the bandwagon teeters on its wheels when shiny new technology slithers onto the scene, but once the proof of concept, sort of the one hit wonder of advertising with AR fades, real world applications will be here forever.

Polinchock envisions a world where his daughter will go to college and live in an AR world, where shopping is augmented, where there are applications in the medical community. "It will be useful at least until the apocalypse, until we've lost power," he joked.

Moderator Richard Carey asked, "Is Foursquare augmented reality?" One panelist remarked that no, it's not, but maybe one application would be to see the other users that you "check in" with. So, hold up now. You're at the bar, you check in. Foursquare notifies you, and the people who want to know your every location, the three other people you've checked in with. Then, it would let you see those people? Simple solution, look up from your phone and see them. But I digress. For those of you who aren't familiar with Foursquare -- here.

Our expert panel, all pickled with personality, agreed that the opportunities for print, even for brick and mortar stores, are lucrative. On the print side, in order to activate the AR session, you need a "marker," which could be so many things: a magazine, a postcard-sized piece of collateral, a CD (what are THOSE?!) insert, a movie ticket, a concert ticket, a T-shirt label, a coffee cup "don't burn my hand"er. For brick and mortar stores/businesses with a GPS tie-in, the experience a customer, client, or user has could explode. The experience you create, according to Dimon must "be the most passive experience possible." "If I have to download software for 5 minutes only to view a commercial, I'm pissed!" agreed Polinchock.

Finally, they addressed concerns. It's moot: the top two are privacy and ownership. How much does the user expose? How awesome is the value proposition to relinquish a certain amount of privacy? And once everyone starts tagging their entire world, who owns it? Who is the life information editor that controls the new content created around brands - to ensure facts, not necessarily to disrupt freedoms of speech (so chill out).

I like these questions. I like that the room was participating, that questions like "What are the implications for TV?" came up. It means that no one is joking about this, it's not just a pretty face, it's real.

Seriously, I feel energized; refreshed from a peek at what can be as opposed to what can't be anymore (muahahahah old media death knells).

I leave you with this: all you need, according to Broitman, to futz and create a slice of augmented reality is the FLARToolkit, Flash Skills and Papervision 3D. Are you listening, educators? Pull a class together.

Photos from the panel are up on Flickr!

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5 comments about "Just An Online Minute... Augmented Reality: The Heidi Montag Of New Media?".
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  1. Adam Broitman from McKinsey & Company, January 21, 2010 at 3:47 p.m.

    you are amazing!

  2. Kelly Samardak from Shortstack Photography, January 21, 2010 at 5:40 p.m.

    Someone once told me that amazing doesn't always indicate a positive review, just the evocation of amazement.

  3. William Sobel from SobelMedia/NY:MIEG, January 21, 2010 at 9:41 p.m.

    Thank You Kelly...and Thank You are both amazing!

    or in other words...thank you! (is that positive enough?)

  4. Kelly Samardak from Shortstack Photography, January 22, 2010 at 1 p.m.

    Thanks Bill! I'm looking forward to the next step up - some juicy metrics, comparison, debate, sumo.

  5. William Sobel from SobelMedia/NY:MIEG, January 25, 2010 at 8:39 p.m.

    Hi Kelly

    Our next event will be an evening affair featuring the one and only Gary Vaynerchuk...which we are calling "Uncorking Gary Varynerchuk: an in-depth conversation with Ellis Henican of Fo News and Newsday"

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