This April, a giant undead ice dragon landed on top of New York’s iconic Flatiron Building and encased it in ice. No, it wasn’t a scene from a movie. As the onlookers also watching on in amazement will attest, it was really happening. That doesn’t mean it was real, of course – it was an augmented reality (AR) special effect created to promote the final series of hit TV show Game of Thrones.
The promotional campaign used a new geolocated Landmarker AR Lens developed by Snapchat that allows users to see bespoke AR effects associated with famous sites such as Buckingham Palace and the Eiffel Tower. The technology builds on the success of geolocated gaming apps such as Pokémon GO.
Many experts predict that this year, AR will reach a tipping point thanks to the hotly anticipated release of the Harry Potter: Wizards Unite location-based AR game, which was created by Pokémon developer Niantic, and a new Minecraft AR game developed for smartphones by Microsoft. Thanks to the growing use of geo-AR technology, which layers the digital world on to the physical world, the boundary between the digital and physical worlds is blurring. This presents a significant challenge for the landlords, property managers and retailers, which could ultimately lose ownership of their buildings in the digital space.
One company trying to address this issue is Darabase, a platform that enables building owners to manage and monetise AR permissions and content in the physical world. The company is the brainchild of Dominic Collins, who previously worked for Silicon Valley virtual reality company Jaunt.
“Lots of people were thinking about the digital layer, but they weren’t thinking about how it interacted with the physical layer on which it sits,” says Collins.
He started digging into the subject and quickly established that there was no clarity or system about who owns the virtual layer on physical property and that some companies were already trying to make a quick buck selling virtual land.
Collins realised there was a real need for a system that could help landlords, property managers and retailers manage and monetise the virtual content that appeared on their buildings – and that this system needed to be delivered quickly because of the accelerating rate of adoption of geo-AR. Juniper forecasts that by 2022 there will be 9.1 million AR apps in app stores – at the moment there are around 3,000.
“Whether it be the mobile phone today – and there are around two billion devices that have AR inherent within them through Android’s AR core or Apple’s AR kit – or whether it be in the not-too-distant future with some kind of smart glasses device, our digital world will increasingly be viewed through a lens and it will be increasingly layered on reality,” says Collins.What Darabase has set itself up to do is create a global permissions database that enables property owners to decline or allow virtual content to be ‘served’ on their buildings and to get paid for granting permission. “In the future, when a lot of AR advertising is being bought and sold programmatically in the same way that mobile and digital ads are being sold today, at its simplest Darabase will act as a data service that allows – based on the user’s location – a real-time look-up as to where they are, where there is an inventory and what permission and category of permission is there for that inventory. An ad will then get served [to the AR app user] and we will take a percentage – probably a 10% cut of the campaign revenue – and share that with the property owner.”
Collins says the company is currently speaking to publishers, brands and creative agencies, retailers, some large landlords and property managers.
“What we’re finding is a lot of the bigger property companies have got innovation teams and innovation hubs within them and they see there is a real mix of risk and opportunity. There’s kind of a: ‘Hang on a minute, people can start sticking virtual ads on my properties and I can’t do anything about it?’ Well yes, that’s true, but then very quickly they are thinking: ‘OK, what content can we serve and how can we monetise this in the future?’”
One property company Collins has had conversations with is JLL.
“Geo-AR is incredibly exciting as it offers the potential to bring the virtual world to the physical built environment,” says Alex Edds, director of innovation at JLL.
“Not only can it offer some incredible visual experiences but it opens up an entirely new commercialisation opportunity for real estate owners. Obviously it’s still early days, but it’s definitely one to watch. We are currently exploring a number of opportunities at JLL and I’m excited to see client reaction.”
In terms of the amount of revenue that could potentially be derived by property owners from selling digital rights, Collins says it is completely “linked to the eyeballs – so as the audience grows the revenue grows”.
The revenue generated by the AR advertising industry is already growing at a rapid rate – this year, it is expected to be worth around $29bn (£22.9bn), and by 2026 Statista estimates it will be worth circa $164bn.
“Mobile advertising will overtake TV this year to be the biggest [advertising] medium overall and if we do see a future in the next five to 10 years where the majority of people, or a lot of people, are using some kind of a wearable device – for instance glasses – and that’s their main way of interacting with data and the digital experience, which I believe will be the case, then actually this will be potentially the biggest medium in the world.”
The full article on Property Week is behind registration, though it’s free for up to four articles.If you would like to learn more and discuss how Darabase could help you control your reality in this exciting and evolving world of GeoAR, do get in touch.
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Dom. Dominic Collins
CEO & Co-Founder, Darabase