Mobile Augmented Reality - More Retention, Less Gimmicks

POSTED BY Global Administrator
I have before me on my desk a piece of paper. On it are printed nine black circles, surrounding an image of a small blue tower. I activate an app on my smartphone, look through the camera viewfinder, and focus on the piece of paper. Through the viewfinder a small blue tower has appeared on my desk; hopping into view are a host of small, spherical aliens which appear to be intent on assaulting my tower. A pitched battle ensues on my desk amidst the empty mugs of tea. This, folks, is ARdefender. Welcome to augmented reality. Now, ARdefender is good fun, but – let’s be honest here – it’s functionality is somewhat limited; it is unlikely to engage the end user for months on end in the same way that, say, Angry Birds has done for the world and his smartphone-owning dog, or even that QuadraPop has done for my fiancée on her Sony Ericsson. To be fair, I don’t suppose its progenitors, mobile13, envisaged that it would set the world alight in this regard: what it has done is make people go “ooh” and possibly “aah” as they experience AR on the mobile for the first time. In this regard, ARdefender was a trailblazing app, so hats off to mobile13 for it. But herein lies the problem. There are now several hundred AR apps out there for smartphones, and ARdefender is one of the better ones. The problem – as I outlined in our recent report on mobile augmented reality – is that while augmented reality offers genuine potential for revenue generation in the medium term, the fact that many of its early deployments were essentially one-trick ponies has undoubtedly counted against it: “While the first wave of AR applications that emerged during 2009 and early-2010 attracted substantial media attention, there is no doubt that the bulk of them offered little in the way of customer retention: either that the AR element had been added at the last minute to a pre-existing app, or that the use of AR was limited and failed to engage with the end user… Several executives that Juniper Research spoke to raised the issue that, where AR apps had permeated the public consciousness, they were frequently associated with ‘gimmickry’ with the result that AR’s true potential was being ignored…” Ultimately, the key is to produce good apps which have AR at their heart: apps which engage or demonstrably add value in part because of their AR element. Let me repeat: there is nothing wrong with ARdefender as far as it goes. The challenge for developers is to create a host of compelling apps which take the enabling technologies that stage further, an outcome which I would argue is increasingly likely given the increasing involvement of major players in augmented reality: Qualcomm, with its investments in AR R&D across a series of research establishments both in the US and Europe, is at the forefront here, and last October launched an AR SDK for developers working with the Android OS. Likewise, the interest shown by brands such as Carlsberg, Time Out and Coca Cola in incorporating AR into marketing campaigns suggests that the next 12 months could see a flurry of AR-enabled apps launched over platforms such as Layar and junaio. I am now off to blow up some more small, spherical aliens. And – bearing in mind the number of empty mugs on the desk – to do some overdue washing up…