Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Untitled for Now

BP Spill Inspired AR and What it Does Right

Blog by Tony Volpe

I have to give a big two thumbs up to the iPhone App, “The Leak in Your Home Town” created by Mark Skwarek and Joesph Hocking. In summary, after grabbing their iPhone App you can head off to any BP station, point your camera at the iconic British Petroleum logo and voila! You’ve got yourself an oil spill of your very own! It’s like socially aware, virtual, graffiti.

One thing that I love about this piece is that it’s much truer to what I feel is Augmented Reality than most applications just by using the BP logo. What I mean by this is that as a user of AR Apps I’m sick of being required to print out a logo that looks like some kind of half finished cubist painting and position it somewhere to get a virtual object to appear. At this point am I really augmenting reality? It feels more like I’m augmenting a piece of paper in an environment of my own choosing. I understand this proceedure is required to overcome huddles involved in the technology, however it seems that Ad Agencies and Developers of AR applications seem to forget that this typical process destroys much of the illusion that is so key to their idea.

I’ll give you an example brief that I’ve seen many times. To promote a product an agency wants to create an out of doors event where people will use a mobile device to present a virtual representation of a that product layered onto the real world. To do so the user must point their device at the stereotypical AR marker.

The intention is that viewer is Shocked! Amazed! that there is a crazy, unreal object right before their eyes! The problem is this : at the point which the user is required to point the camera at a symbol which is clearly not a part of their normal surroundings, that user already knows that something is out of the ordinary. And so why would they be surprised when something virtual appears above it? The user already has a big hint that “Hey! something out of the ordinary exists right here!”

“The Leak in Your Home Town” avoids all this by using something that is naturally present in the environment. That’s part of what makes this project so excellent to me, and I’m sure it’s been done before and will be done often after this.

What are some other alternatives? A simple one is to have the app respond to a logo in a billboard 50 feet away. Hand the phone to the user and give them alternative task – “Can you take a picture of me and my girlfriend?”. When a car leaps off the billboard and is chased by a giant T-Rex, I can gaurentee you the view will be suprised then!

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