Jan 012012

Originally published Oct 2011 in Wired Magazine ‘Change Accelerators‘ by Gary Hayes 4 of 5

Image by Gary Hayes

When planning your next holiday to London with the fam, don’t forget to sync up your iGlasses and load up the London experience packs. On arrival, slip on your augmented reality sunglasses and take a look around: Roman-era London appears before your eyes. Slaves and gladiators walk through the streets and chariots rush past. You can add your own comments leaving virtual “We Were Here” graffiti for all time. The experience is part documentary, part user-generated narrative, and entirely pervasive. In other words, augmented reality meets living history.

In our everyday lives, we engage with stories in many ways, whether it’s eye-to-eye contact with a stranger that sparks an instant connection or a well-crafted movie or TV show. But what if we started experiencing those stories in the outernet’s layers?

While online networks are evolving traditional entertainment, such as TV and web series, we are also witnessing the rise of a new form of media called “augmented reality storytelling.” I’ve dubbed this new form of diversion ’ntertainment, as a shorthand for immersive augmented reality entertainment.

At its broadest level, augmented reality is about enhancing the physical world through digital elements, such as images, sound, and information. Now technology is enabling us to further situate and layer our digital stories in places where other narratives can’t reach. Right now, we see this happening when someone holds up a camera on an iPhone or tablet and shares objects or stories from the real world.

The opening Roman London example is based on an existing service called Londinium, which is a collaboration between the History Channel and the Museum of London using augmented reality video layered over real-world streets to re-create an alternate history. Coincidentally, London is also used as a site in the globe-spanning Ghost Tours 2.0. Haunted London encourages visitors to explore the city’s eerie side using locative AR (augmented reality). Likewise, another situated project is Witness, which draws participants into the dramatic and seedy underbelly of criminal Berlin. In this case, players are the hero: They watch graphic video scenes at different city locations and are then sent detective challenges to uncover the truth. But here’s the twist: The story might just bite you back! Augmented reality games and stories can even get physical, like the recent example of Chelsea FC playing the world’s largest Space Invaders game in a stadium using projection AR.

Gaming is leading the way. New consoles, like Vita, allow users to literally take game characters orreality fighters into the streets. Other gaming advances like AR games on Nintendo’s 3DS start to recognize place markers placed around a player’s city, transforming screen-based MMORPG(massively multiplayer online role-playing games) into an LMMOG (location-based massively multiplayer online games).

Augmented reality storytelling is starting to appear across our smart GPS mobile devices. Several marketing campaigns are taking the initiative by spearheading real-time AR challenges, such as Vodafone’s Buffer Monsters, which challenged German smartphone users to download a mobile app to capture virtual creatures and win a lifetime plan. This is only one example, other AR advergames encourage users to competitively run around cities on scavenger hunts for real-world prizes, such as the Droid Bionic AR Game. Similarly, this October, Gundam, the Japanese anime giant, release an iPhone/iPad app called Gundam Area Wars. The game uses the devices’ camera and gyroscopic sensors to show life-size 3D models situated in the player’s real-world landscape.

Given these above examples, I return to my earlier travel scenario and I wonder how commonplace it will become for people arriving in a new location to start experiencing it through augmented reality storytelling and gameplay? The traditional guidebook has already morphed into digital form. The Lonely Planet is already a downloadable app. Is it a big jump to imagine AR and location-based storytelling won’t soon allow travelers to engage history on a whole new level? One might even argue a deeper and more meaningful one than just the 2D sightseeing experience of looking at crumbling ruins. So many guidebooks have been written on the principle of making history come to life—AR actually makes it possible.

One could even take this one step further and question, why do we need to travel at all when we have our own personal Holodecks at our fingertips? Fast Company recently reported on Tour Wrist, a virtual tour that lets iPad users move around a global location with unlimited zoom and freedom. “Travelers” are virtually transported to that place and able to immerse themselves in it becoming the hero in a remotely situated, digital storyworld.

Finally, in the near future, we might all have the capability to create duplicates of our surroundings in 3D for others. This Microsoft R&D initiative to map the world uses the fastest selling piece of tech on the planet, the Xbox Kinect. This would allow everyday people to create unlimited user-generated 3D AR—foreseeable as easily as snapping a digital picture. In addition to this, there is a saturation of location-stamped social stories inside services, such as Google Earth, TagWhat, HistoryPin, Facebook Places, CheckIn+, Foursquare, and Gowalla, among others. What will result from all these stories becoming interconnected and navigable using AR devices?

From that point on, we will be co-creating an augmented entertainment eternity. Together. Will you be a part of it?

Dec 292011

Originally published Oct 2011 in Wired Magazine ‘Change Accelerators‘ by Gary Hayes 1 of 5

Image by: Gary Hayes

We all do it.  We sit in our local multiplex waiting for the latest blockbuster film to start. The room darkens and minutes later your world has disappeared. The seats and people around you evaporate and for the next hour or so, you are living vicariously “through” the heroes in front of you. You have an out-of-body experience of sorts.

And so it has been for the last century, cinema and other large group events have fulfilled a need to be somewhere or someone else. But pervasive “surround us” technology has been quietly maturing in the background and our entertainment needs and desires are shifting. Audiences have turned into users. They want, to be part of the show, have the game surround them, influence their media, have their voices heard, and share the experience with friends—they want to not just see, but be those heroes. Because now they can.

We are living in experiential times and mass entertainment is in rapid transition. We, as producers of this content, are clearly marching down a road toward a personal entertainment Holodeck. Once the sole domain of theme parks every part of the media landscape is becoming experiential and there is a good deal evidence over the past few years of this behavioral and content media shift.

  • Cinema and home entertainment is evolving, becoming hyper-sensory, extending our sense of disbelief. There is also mass audience 3D, now with added scratch-and-sniff, smell-o-vision 4D.
  • 3D virtual game worlds are being mapped over real space. Examples such as Parallel Kingdom on smartphones or Flying Fairy and others on Sony Vita are moving outdoors.
  • Transmedia, sophisticated multiplatform storytelling embeds us into imaginary fictional story worlds. By surrounding us with a sea of content it reaches out to us across (the trans bit) our plethora of personal digital devices and channels.
  • Personalized life-games where your world and everything we do in it becomes gamified. From loyalty points to leader boards we are drawn in to a parallel, participatory social game world.
  • Augmented reality storytelling—early stages of immersive digitally layered worlds. Layers of Augmented Reality viewable on our smart-connected-camera devices surround us in media, information and story—bringing contextual entertainment to anywhere and everywhere we go.
  • Social and Live events encourage us to share our views, to extend the experience outwards into our personal networks. From Social TV through to the “look where I am” check-in apps to sticky social games and even theatrical experiences such as LARPS (live action role playing), we become part of the participatory, viral web.

Advertising is known to bring experiential marketing to new levels—surrounding us in the real world with 3D projection mapping, locative advergames, and branded flash-mobs. This shift is being driven by business too. The experiential economy has taught us that people view digital media as free, but they are willing to pay top dollar for an exclusive, all-consuming experience at a live event.

These emergent forms of media are starting to touch on virtuality, singularity, and even transhumanism as we choose entertainment that fools our minds into out-of-body, matrix-like experiences.

All of this will raise other questions such as:

  • Will heritage mono media such as print media be around in five years time?
  • Why go to the cinema when you can be in the film at home or out and about living the story?
  • Will broadcast TV become just a window on live events or will social elements evolve it?
  • Will our real world be submerged beyond recognition in layers of digital overlays?
  • Who is going to make all this stuff?

In the following four articles this week, I will try to answer some of these questions and drill down deeper into how our media world is forever being altered. From social transmedia storytelling through to pervasive all-around us locative experiences to augmented reality entertainment, I look briefly at the paradigm shifts ahead and how we as experiencers will evolve as well.

Are you experiential, yet?

May 312011

I promised quite a few folk to provide a walk-through of my short 35 minute presentation at the Augmented Reality Event in California last week. The intention of the presentation was to take my AR Scenario & Business Model thinking to the next level, to go beyond marketing eye candy, clunky ‘questionable’ games and really dig down and think hard about the value proposition for users. In creating the presentation I had to look at a deeper level at the nature of experience, as in that we can start to really find true value in Augmenting our Reality. To begin though a little compilation video I threw together for this post and some future talks looking specifically at a range of locative augmented and alternate reality services (entertainment, promotion and advertorial) to set the landscape.

Music track is called Zemith from my ‘Calm After the Storm’ album in progress – subscribe free

The only way the Augmented Reality industry is going to emerge from its current commercial birthing period is for the brands, corporates & creatives to make sure that AR is delivering a unique, immersive experience and to start to consider the value of experiential (a marketing definition here). This nature of experience, which I believe is inextricably linked to the future of AR, and the value users place on immersive services also leads at the end into a ‘experiential’ panel I am leading at Creative Sydney at the Opera House this week and I cover some of my thoughts in that space first.

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