You’ll be hard pushed to find a multi-billion dollar technology company or leader not talking up Augmented Reality (or Mixed Reality or XR or Spatial Computing or one of the other descriptions doing the rounds, proof itself that we are still in our infancy as an industry).
Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook believes “AR is going to mix digital and physical in ways that will make our physical reality better.”
Satya Nadella thinks that “the ultimate computer for me is the mixed reality world, Your field of view becomes an infinite display. You see the world and in the world you see virtual objects and holograms.”
Tim Cook at Apple says, “AR will change everything” and “Augmented Reality is going to change the way we use technology forever.”
You may have seen Digi-Capital’s Computing Platform Waves from 2016 that saw virtual, augmented and mixed reality as the fourth computing platform, with AR glasses set to replace our smartphones in the coming years. This won’t just be a change in device, but a shift in how we as humans interact with digital content and the data-driven world which is seeping into every crevice of our existence.
Today on mobile, we use one application or website at a time. We switch between social, email, messaging, games, entertainment, work-based and home-based apps and experiences hundreds of times a day. In fact a recent study found that the average person will now spend 5 years and 4 months of their life looking at social media. That’s more than 4 times the amount they’ll spend actually socialising!
Future AR user interaction though promises to be less binary. In the future our interaction will be increasingly layered on reality, with multiple layers on at the same time. This will mean that our digital life will become much more contextual and importantly, linked to our physical location. We call this Geo-AR – the inevitable shift from fun, but very simple AR lenses in mobile-based messaging apps to the more functional and powerful augmentation of the places that we inhabit.
Scott Belsky of Adobe believes “that augmented reality is one of those new mediums that could be as big as if not bigger than the web. One of the areas where consumers adopt something new is when it makes something drastically easier. When I think about augmented reality I think about instances like finding your way somewhere, finding your friends in a stadium, or going to a conference and looking around and knowing who everyone is because their LinkedIn profile is hanging over their heads.”
But, he not only recognises the upsides. He is thinking about potential problems and also said:
“There are a lot of issues that it opens up like, for example, who is allowed to place an AR object where? Can someone from Burger King walk into a McDonald’s and place a Burger King ad there? What are the rules? It’s a whole new kind of field of consideration.”
That’s a question that I wondered about myself.
I did some digging, asked a good lawyer friend and discovered that indeed right now legally anyone can put anything anywhere in AR. You see, it apparently doesn’t really exist – it’s just on the phone screen. The fact that thousands of actual people arrive in an actual physical location and trample through actual flower beds to be a part of the AR game, event or e-commerce experience counts for nothing, if they break no physical laws. At the moment, there is no such thing legally as trespass or nuisance when it comes to AR or a virtual layer on the physical world. Indeed there is even the beginnings of legal precedence here. For example, the legal spat between Milwaukee county, Niantic and Candy Lab over whether Pokémon Go and the like need permits to place game objects at locations in their parks which has just come to a ruling – but more on that in a future post…
Whilst I’m all for minimising paperwork and innovating the future rather than simply reinventing the past, this lack of clarity and (dare I say it) regulation seemed problematic. I believe that new technologies and eco-systems only really flourish and become globally significant when all the relevant parties are engaged and, where relevant, rewarded. Clarity breeds confidence which in turn drives momentum.
I also believe that certain market and economic dynamics will undoubtedly migrate and empower this new world and behaviour. For centuries, goods, services, information and entertainment have been subsidised through advertising and marketing. I’ve worked in media a long time, from selling classified ads in the back of magazines before the internet existed, to creating the latest Virtual Reality campaigns for global advertisers. One thing has been constant – brands (mostly) want to do the right thing and will pay to ensure that’s the case.
They don’t want to be associated with bad practice or risk tarnishing their hard fought and expensive brand equity and reputations. They want permission-based marketing and to ensure best practice through their partners. They don’t tend to bid on their competitors brand terms on Google, even though they could. They adopted double opt-in email subscriptions way ahead of GDPR because it was the right thing to do and more effective on the ROI. And in the era of fake news and click fraud, brand safety has never been more in focus for responsible marketers.
So it is with all of this in mind that we decided to found Darabase. We believe the market opportunity for Geo-AR is huge, but for the opportunity to become reality (pardon the pun), permission, best practice and the engagement of all parties will be crucial.
We’re building Darabase to be the platform to manage and monetise AR content and permissions on the physical world:
We will partner with advertisers to help them plan, purchase & report location-based Geo-AR campaigns.
We will work with publishers and app developers to integrate permission based Geo-AR advertisements and content into their experiences, driving incremental revenue.
We will enable powerful, relevant & contextual AR experiences on the real world for consumers.
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CEO & Co-Founder, Darabase