11/11/09

Are You Ready to Augment Your Reality?

I got it! I got it! I got it today! I was so, so happy--when I came home tonite something told me to pick up my mail and to my distinct pleasure I had received the December issue of Esquire; "henceforth to be known as the Genius Issue," to quote Robert Downey, Jr. Why, you may ask? I'll tell ya why--it is their Augmented Reality Issue. On the cover sits said Robert Downey, Jr. atop "a googly-eyed box". After spending a half-hour downloading some special A/R software (25 minutes more than Esquire's quoted 5 minutes), I was able to hold the magazine cover up to my laptop's web cam and--VOILA--watch Mr. Downey cavort about my screen. Yes, he did some shameless self-promotion on his upcoming Sherlock Holmes movie--the Warners Bros. Studio probably paid for the production of the video footage--but it really was exciting to see it all unfold. And it wasn't just one video "on the cover," so to speak, but 4. With every turn and tilt of the cover you got more footage. The A/R segments were built by the Barbarian Group and Psyop, both digital design companies at the very front of the online marketing pack. Thankfully, most of the segments were no longer than 20-45 seconds long because you had to hold the magazine up in such a manner so that the laptop could read the A/R icon on the cover.

It took me a little while to figure out that I had to make sure and hold the mark in front of the webcam even after the footage started running to ensure that the video continued to move along and stay in the center of the screen--there is a little marker locator in the upper-right hand corner.

In addition to the cover, there were 5 other embedded A/R icons: one for their monthly feature "A Funny Joke From a Beautiful Woman", another from Esquire Style, the third from jazz musician Robert Glasper and the last one from photographer JR.

The "Funny Joke" segment was interesting. Actress Gillian Jacobs tells two jokes set to the time on your computer. If it is before midnite, the PG-rated joke plays. If it is after midnite, the NR one plays (I didn't stay up to listen).

The Esquire Style piece was interesting. I began to see some opportunity for product placement in this one, obviously because the actor Jeremy Renner was modeling clothes but also because even tho the background was illustrated the the name of the sponsor Dolce Gabanna was prominently displayed. The execution of this one was a little hard because in order to see Jeremy transform from one season of clothing to the next, I had to rotate the page. Which got to be rather akward for me. Maybe I am just uncoordinated.

The jazz musician's piece was good, too, because I was afraid that I was going to have to hold the magazine up for the entire play of the song. But once the web cam recognized the A/R icon and I dropped the magazine, it automatically rolled over to a web page featuring a billboard and a slider showing the extent of the play. By the way, it was some great jazz.

The photographer's slideshow was a little disappointing. It had some stunning work but in order to scroll through the images you had to rotate the page of the icon. When I did, the images scrolled a tad too quickly for my taste. It could be user error but I did try it a couple of times and got the same results.

And there was one other, and to Esquire's credit, unpromoted use of A/R. Lexus had an A/R ad. However, I have to say it was pretty disappointing. It didn't have a lot of razzmatazz and seemed to be a reworking of a typical car video. But I'm not into cars or car ads so maybe it was kinda cool. But the whole Esquire effort was SO COOL! I was just grinning. Okay, I was grinning because, yes, Robert Downey, Jr. is one of my favorites, but it was just so damn cool! I mean, can't you just see it? Just imagine: you will be able to send a pleading to the judge and have an A/R icon embedded into it, which switches to a the video footage from your Academy Award-winning deposition where the opposing party's client says, "Yes, I have the smoking gun! And I am glad I did it!" Or you are at a virtual trial and you go to submit your evidence to the holographic jury and the holographic judge, which documents the fraudulent expenditure of company funds and embedded into the documents are the fingerprints, which auto-hyperlink to all of the related records that the defrauder touched and includes a receipt for a matching amount of deposits to an off-shore bank? Ummh. Sorry. Clearly, I missed my calling as a sci-fi, legal thriller writer. Or maybe not. But anyways, we are just beginning to see how A/R will be used. It is the dawn of a new day. Have you had your Jolt yet?

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