Remember the scene from Minority Report where Chief John Anderton walks through a shopping mall and personalized advertisements jump out at him from each store? That’s Steven Spielberg‘s vision of augmented reality:
Spielberg’s portrayal of the future of advertising probably isn’t that far off the mark, except I’d think there would be far less clutter and the marketing would be less in your face and more targeted and useful and on demand.
Rather than basically having customized TV ads pop out at you wherever you go, think of augmented reality marketing as essentially a transparent overlay addition to your vision from which you can "click" for more information on a given thing in your environment.
Say you’re walking through a shopping mall just like John Anderton but instead of getting unsolicited ads popping up at you, you get the equivalent of a hyperlink anchored to the store you are currently seeing. If you select that link, you can get the essential information about the store just as you currently can from Google Maps. You could save that information for later reference. You could view promotional content from the store itself. You read user-submitted reviews of the store. Or you could compare their prices and/or promotions with another store you’ve already saved.
Or maybe you’re walking down 7th Street in Minneapolis passing the famous nightclub First Avenue and you want to see who will be playing there this week. Select the events calendar that is augmented onto the building and you can see the bands playing this week and listen to a few of their songs or simply order tickets for a show.
About 38 seconds into this video, there’s an example of how such an augmented reality might look:
This photo is an imagining of what directions might look like in augmented reality:
This Flickr user has created a nice mashup of how augmented reality might look as a reputation system.
The technology for such a future already exists. There are plenty of people working on wearable computing products, including data glove input devices. Broadband wireless access is growing in major metropolitan areas. The success of the iPhone points the way to the consolidation of Internet-connected communication devices. GPS-enabled cell phone adoption is growing. Camera technology gets smaller and sharper by the minute, it seems. Lightweight, flexible video screens exist. Geographic business data already exists at Internet yellow pages and Yahoo! Local and Google Local.
All of the required technology exists to make this sci-fi vision a reality, it’s just a matter of pulling it all together and miniaturizing it to the point that it’s practical for everyday use.