Augmented Reality in New Zealand

Augmented Reality in New Zealand

Within 10 years “the unadorned world will be history”, and our reality will have become a mix of the real and digital. ~ Michael Liebhold, Institute for the Future

There’s a distinct novelty factor to recent augmented reality examples. The majority are tactical and would not last the distance as a long term strategy. Their concepts rely on the newness of the technology rather than solely being enhanced by the platform. Without the novelty of augmented reality they often lack substance. So it’s not surprising that some critics are writing augmented reality off as a fad. However, there are some local examples that are showing what can be achieved when branding and commerce are set aside.

Overseas AR examples (left to right): Esquire readers scan the magazine to unlock model "Brooklyn Decker"; Lynx made angels fall from heaven; National Geographic brought to life leopards and dinosaurs but relied on a 'Wizard of Oz' trick - a man hiding behind a screen to start the AR sequence; trying on H&M virtual clothes

 

CityViewAR – A word first for earthquake reconstruction

In 2010 and 2011, Christchurch was hit by earthquakes that significantly changed the face of the city’s architecture forever. Latest reports list around 500 buildings that have been destroyed or are scheduled for demolition. For residents of Canterbury it is important to have a way of both remembering what once was and input into what will be.

Canterbury University and HIT Lab (Human Interface Technology Laboratory) have developed an augmented reality program that allows people to view both the past and future of their city. Using an Android mobile phone people can walk around the city and see life-sized virtual models of what the buildings looked like on site before they were demolished, and see pictures and written information. Hundreds of 3D models of key city buildings have been made available from architect Jason Mill of ZNO, while the Christchurch City Council and Historic Places Trust have provided photographs and building histories.

CityViewAR is based on the HIT Lab NZ Android AR platform which uses the GPS and compass sensors in smartphones to enable virtual information to be overlaid on the real world. The software has previously used for showing individual buildings, but this is the first time that it has been used to show dozens of buildings at once, and the first time in world that augmented reality has been used for earthquake reconstruction.

What is more interesting is the future development planned. Added functionality will allow users to add their own feedback on the buildings shown, so architects and urban planners can get input from the public about proposed designs. Additional historical data could be included to allow people to go back in time and see what used to be at locations 50 or 100 years ago. Ongoing research could lead to a mobile AR platform that could be quickly deployed in response to a natural disaster and provide invaluable on-site information.

From the 10th of December 2011 the program will also be available to download on iPhones. The iPhone version will be launched at Cashel Mall’s container shops this week. Mark Billinghurst, of HIT Lab, says that while only about 100 copies have been downloaded so far, with the December event and applicability to a wider range of device, he is expected around 1000 downloads prior to Christmas. In the meantime the Android version can be downloaded from here – those not in Christchurch can still view the application as ‘fake’ GPS data can be sent.

Other uses of Augmented Reality in Christchurch

Mindscape's 'digital binoculars' bring history to life at Canterbury Museum

Christchurch is leading the way for augmented reality development in NZ due jointly to the creative talent based there and the tragic earthquakes which have inspired new thinking on a grand scale:

A Global Perspective on AR Technology

It’s unlikely that augmented reality is going to be passing fad with the ‘big players’ Google, Nokia and Microsoft all seriously involved with augmented reality development projects. According to a new market research report “Global Augmented Reality Market Forecast by Product” published by MarketsandMarkets, the total augmented reality applications market is expected to reach US$5151.74M by 2016. In the US alone ABI Research estimates that the market for augmented reality will hit US$350M by 2014, up from just $6M in 2008.

The Future of Augmented Reality 

Like any another new media – augmented reality is only the platform. The true potential of this technology is unlocked through relevant content that provides value to the user. It is the application of augmented reality that will take it beyond a gimmick. Augmented reality should act as the vehicle to deliver the concept – not the concept itself. Being able to take a photo of yourself with a virtual celebrity or seeing yourself surrounded by the unreal on a screen will only amuse audiences for so long.

So what do you think of augmented reality – is it a passing fad or here to stay?

Nicole is a self-confessed geek, obsessed with all things marketing. Currently she is the Marketing Manager for Mitsubishi Electric products in NZ as well as holding several mentoring and consulting roles. To share her admiration (and envy) for exceptional marketing ideas she blogs at The Envy Collection - The Envy Collection.

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11 Comments

  1. Kaleb - December 5, 2011

    Nice post Nicole – I agree that without investing in a proper strategy AR could die a quick death in NZ. Yay, another AR app showing someone standing by an celebrity!

    I can see tourist groups using it to show over seas travelers around a city or perhaps individuals uploading their journeys to a blog where you can follow them around for a day. I know when I was living in London a couple of years ago that this idea would have been killer.

    The next question beyond how can it improve a customers experience is how can it be monetized?

  2. Nicole Williams - December 7, 2011

    Thanks for commenting Kaleb – agree there needs to be some sound financials to encourage further development. Will be interesting how the uptake of the CityViewAR programs goes when it launches onto iPhone. Just had some feedback from the developer Mark Billinghurst from HIT Lab and interestingly he sees education as holding the biggest potential for this technology. Perhaps once some more examples exist in the field it will be better understood and grow to make financial sense for marketers. 

  3. Daniel Fearn - December 8, 2011

    AR has been using in gaming for a few years now, without much commercial success. Perhaps it will be like 3D and make a comeback now that the technology is suitably advanced?

    • Nicole Williams - December 8, 2011

      Thanks for commenting Daniel (nice to see you’ve been reading a few of my posts today ;)) – it’s been a slow start for AR – I think that mobile technology is giving the best opportunity for the technology to develop – as smartphone adoption and data speeds increase AR should be aided. Also GSP technology is currently holding the technology back – at the moment it’s only accurate to a within a couple of metros – not perfect when you’re trying to create a ‘realistic’ digital layer! Interesting times though!

  4. Mike McMinn - June 28, 2012

    Imagine a world where the AR device recognises maybe a QR code and then pops a dynamic menu based on the context of the user. Now we have a sales or service tool designed for that person increasing ROI in both areas. All you need now is a cross platform mobile IVR tool that can create the menus dynamically. I’m waiting for a Beta product from Interactive Intelligence to see if we can make this a reality at some point in the future. Maybe I’m dreaming?

    • Nicole Williams - July 11, 2012

      Hi Mike, the fun thing about dreaming is with the speed of technology advances they can become reality quite quickly! Look forward to seeing what Interactive Intelligence is developing in this space

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