BrainTrust Query: Augmented Reality – The Impending Battle for Digital Real Estate
Commentary by Doug Stephens, President, Retail Prophet
Through a special
arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article
from the Retail Prophet Consulting blog.
As augmented reality increases in
usage, could we see potential turf wars between physical retail businesses
and digital businesses vying for consumer attention in the same locations?
reality is the layering of digital information onto real life objects and places.
These digital content layers are viewable with computers or smartphones
and may take the form of text, video, or images. While still very much in
its infancy, examples of augmented reality are turning up sporadically in the
consumer market. Lego, for example, has incorporated the technology into some
of its packaging, allowing consumers to not only see what a particular Lego
box contains but also to view a moving virtual model of the completed set via
Location-based augmented reality requires that the user actually
be in a particular location in order to interact with the digital content positioned
there. With some basic web programming skills, almost anyone can create digital
content and place it just about anywhere in the physical realm, including some
of the most prestigious shopping avenues in the world. French clothing brand
Hostage Wear, for example, has opened over 20 A/R shops in some of the world’s
best known venues including Piccadilly Circus, Red Square, Venice Beach and
Madison Square Park.
All this raises some mind-bending questions about the eventual
meeting point between digital content and physical location.
“I look forward to these kinds of challenges,” said Maarten Lens-Fitzgerald,
co-founder of Layar, a pioneer in the field of mobile augmented reality. “It
will mean that the virtual space is valuable.”
Layar currently has one
million active users worldwide and, according to Mr. Lens-Fitzgerald, is growing
at a dramatic pace. With over 3,000 Layar developers worldwide, the potential
for rapid escalation in the number of augmented reality projects is significant.
could we see a time where digital space associated with a specific location
is bought and sold like physical real estate? From Mr. Lens-Fitzgerald’s
point of view the answer is no. Given that there are no limits to the amount
of digital content that can be associated with a particular location, he does
not foresee digital space having the same finite characteristics as real estate.
However, he does see augmented reality advertising space being sold in and
around specific high traffic geographic locations.
And what can retail brands
do to stake out the digital space around their locations? Mr. Lens-Fitzgerald’s
advice is: “Not to approach the
issue from a defensive position.” He maintains that brands should be
developing augmented reality experiences now. The advent of mobile applications
that organize nearby A/R content according to popularity and relevance, low
quality A/R content and experiences will simply fall to the bottom of the list.
In the end, he maintains, whoever “owns the best A/R experience” will
Discussion Questions: How will the collision of the physical and virtual
worlds redefine retail real estate — especially on the world’s
most elite shopping avenues? Should retailers be preparing to use augmented