Fad or the future? Linking reality with the virtual world

Its life Jim but not as we know it. As the virtual world becomes omnipresent it’s fascinating to see new cool things that are going on to bring content from the virtual world seamlessly into the real world. We are working with several customers to explore how events can make use of some of these technologies and capabilities. Some current examples include:

  • Augmented Reality – Worth a blog post on its own, this is hugely exciting even if it sounds a bit way out. A great example of this is imagining yourself as a tourist in a new city. You hold your smartphone camera up to a building in front of you,  the device searches the internet and provides you information about its history. This won’t ever replace a good guide but it does mean that if you want to tour a city on your own you could do – instead of just pounding the known tourist trails you could venture to different parts of the city. Essentially you get your own personal guide. In the events market this also has some possibilities – it could work to identify your location at a festival and tell you about the music the phone is hearing (artist, get the single etc), help guide you to to different parts of a large site or exhibition or even show you where your friends are. It has also got big potential in the game/treasure hunt world.
  • QR Codes – I tweeted about these a while ago. Although not a new invention, having originally been devised in 1994 and very popular in Japan, they are now becoming more popular elsewhere partly thanks to smartphones with cameras which can generally read them. They are a simple way of linking real world collateral with online content and taking the form of a more elaborate barcode which can hold textual information such as a URL. For example you can include a QR code on a poster and when someone scans this with their phone it will take them to a hyperlink or brings up a phone number to call. Not only is this an easy way to get users to a specific URL but it also provides trackback information for that advert.

  • Places – I’m not convinced on the ‘check in’ features which seem to be gaining traction from FourSquare and Facebook places as I’m not sure I see the value for people to know where I have been (perhaps that’s just me!) however the recent album launch for Cheryl Cole used Facebook Places with some success by linking posters for the album to places and then getting people to check-in for entry to a competition. A similar system could work for artists who are touring or playing festivals.

Essentially all these technologies give the end user the same thing – the ability to connect what they are seeing in the digital with the real world. Whilst we might not associate immediate commercial returns what that the actual return is the free marketing gained when that experience is shared over social networking

It will be interesting to see how these technologies develop and which ones move past fads. One thing is for sure is those who can apply this successfully can run ahead of the market quickly

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