Cirque du Soleil

Augmented reality lacks bite for marketers

November 12, 2010: 3:00 AM ET


Companies are experimenting with adding AR layers to real-world scenes. So far, it's not doing much to boost business.

By Kristina Grifantini, MIT Technology Review

While enjoying a game at Yankee Stadium, you take out your smart phone and point its camera at the field. If the resulting image on your screen shows a giant Quiznos toaster floating above the grass, does that make you more inclined to go get a Quiznos sandwich?

How about if you were at Mount Rushmore and you saw the four carved presidents sipping cola from Quiznos cups? Would that influence your lunch plans? Or what if you were on Wall Street, and aiming your smart phone at a real-world statue of a bull yielded an image of it enjoying virtual nachos?

To users, augmented reality (AR) can seem like magic. When they hold up their phones to their surroundings, the program uses the phone's camera, GPS, compass, and Web connection to superimpose digital images and information on an on-screen view. For example, a building's name might float over its image, or virtual arrows might point the way to a subway station. The digital information changes in real time as the camera moves.

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