Reality Check

3 07 2012

Just in case reality hasn’t already bitten you, get ready for more. Lots more. The new reality will be augmented reality.

In case you missed all the hoopla about Google Glasses, the notion is rather simple (albeit tech-laden to the hilt): take what the user sees, and augment it with additional information. Tons of information.

So, when wearing Google Glasses, imagine getting little pop-ups along the top of your frame indicating what business is just around the next corner, what’s on sale, and when happy hour is.

Wait. We’ve already seen this kind of stuff in movies, documentaries and futuristic YouTube clips before. It’s just that this is no longer pie-in-the-sky; it is reality.

Like the new shopping assistant app being developed by IBM Research. While still months away from deployment, the app-in-concept works marvelously, and opens the door for a zillion marketing opportunities.

It will work like this: A shopper enters a store, and downloads the branded app for that chain. Next, the user inputs key desirables (e.g., like oragnic, vegetarian, kosher, etc.). The user can then stroll the aisles, letting the camera scan a product array for items that match the consumer’s interests.

And, of course, product suggestions will pop up. But this is where the marketing people enter the story. It is the perfect time to start pitching featured products, as well as make suggestions for a complementary item over in Aisle 7 that would go well with the current item.

In fact, the more information the user provides, the better the store can market its goods and services. Cha-ching.

Naturally, critics will scoff once more and cry foul, because at the surface it might look like an insidious plot to hijack customer wallets. But it is completely opt-in, and customers do stand to benefit. After all, if I can scan an entire row of soups and instantly find out which ones are based on vegetable stock rather than beef or chicken, my life will be easier. And happier.

All the more reason to embrace the paradigm shift I have been harping on throughout this term: the future is in mobile. I’m just not sure about those glasses yet. I really don’t like the idea of stepping out in front of truck while I am busy reading a pop-up deal at the nearest Triple-D hole in the wall.

Dr “I Can See Clearly Now” Gerlich


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