The augmented reality app that got it right

Zombies From Hell Augmented Reality AppGetting an augmented reality app to promote your brand is very common these days especially when your target market is the young and technology savvy peeps. But how do you manage to go beyond the diluted and over-used WOW factor which very few AR apps still manage to achieve nowadays?

A New Zealand pizza chain seems to have found the answer with their newly launched Zombies from Hell augmented reality application. Apparently this is only a simple zombie survival game set in a city that comes to life through the help of augmented reality by pointing a mobile device’s camera to the Hell Pizza box. Players use various weapons to shoot zombies, earn bonuses, compete against their friends and get rewarded with real-world prizes, from free Cokes to free double pizza vouchers. Despite its apparent simplicity the game already seems to be a hit among the Pizza Hell fans and the online AR world. This is mostly down to the way they have managed to master three key success factors which, although quite obvious, are very often missed out even by big companies.

1. Know your target audience

Teenagers Playing GamesA quick look on the Hell Pizza website is enough to understand who is buying their products: young food enthusiasts who enjoy trying new things and define themselves through the buying choices they make. They grew up with technology, console games and mobile phones and they are always up to date with the latest technology. What better way to get their attention than through one of the most popular phenomenon in recent years: a zombie-inspired game.

2. Go viral

If a pizza, an augmented reality app or a zombie shooter game are no longer capable of getting noticed on their own in the cluttered advertising space, combine them together and you get something special. Add some real-world rewards and you already have the interest of your customers and the media alike. Nowadays, free positive publicity is one of the most powerful and many times difficult to control tools of an AR developer as it automatically ensures a stamp of approval from the community and it builds a lot of trust around their brand.

3. Make them come back

Please Come Back SignAfter all this effort of planning and building an AR app that nicely promotes your products and gets noticed by everybody how do you make sure it is much more than just a gimmick?! Zombies from Hell has been created first of all as a full-fledged mobile game with a range of weapons and levels to choose from, many of them having to be unlocked through playing. The learderboard makes sure that the player’s shooting skills will always be remarked by others and its competitive nature will give them bragging rights in front of their friends.

Where the augmented reality app truly excels is in the merger between the augmented reality action and the real-life rewards. Very few apps do it and even fewer do it properly. With Zombies from Hell, getting some free chicken tenders or some free wedges to accompany your next order pizza is as easy as finishing a game level. This gives not only an instant gratification to the player but also boosts their self-achievement, making sure they will return and try to win their next free pizza.

Although the AR app is not perfect, with many users complaining about not being able to order pizza directly through the app and being also limited only to a few high-end Android devices and iPhones, it is certainly one of the good uses of augmented reality in the mobile space in a long time.

Do you have any examples of augmented reality apps that you think are worth mentioning in the “good AR apps” category? If so, please leave a comment below with any explanations you believe are necessary.

Windy Day from Motorola to take the AR app market by storm?!

Motorola Windy DayAfter reaching more than 1 million downloads despite being a closed beta version, Ingress will no longer be the only augmented reality game developed by a Google-owned company.  Motorola has recently released a teaser video of a new augmented reality application called “Windy Day” which has a launch date announced for the 29th October.

This augmented reality game seems to be based on an AR project presented earlier this year (during a Qualcomm Uplinq conference) which was exploring the depths of interactive storytelling with a mobile device.

This AR concept gives you, the user, a key to a portal to another world. Your phone’s camera is the window to a world where you could follow the story unfolding in front of your eyes or you could wander and let the story happen around you.

This unboxing video from Geek.com shows a few more details.

The Windy Day app looks more than just another augmented reality app, attracting the involvement of Pixar with some of their animation rendering technologies that allow a real-time and smooth video rendering with almost no stutter. These have been seamlessly integrated within the AR app which rests on a Moto X smartphone, demonstrating the power of the new Qualcomm’s Adreno 320 chip.

Unfortunately there are no other details regarding how this augmented reality project was created and what uses it will have but we are expecting to find out more on the launch date. We would also be curious to find out if this application will only be available to Moto X users (as stated at the end of the video) or if it will be accessible to other Android devices and mobile platforms (in the near future).

What would you like for this AR app to bring into the mobile augmented reality world? Do you think that a smartphone/ tablet AR app is the way forward or do you think that other technologies such as wearable devices (i.e. Google Glass) will be the winners in the AR mobile market?  

Augmented Reality Sat Nav Launched by Pioneer

Pioneer Augmented Reality Sat NavUntil now, augmented reality has been entering our cities, streets, shops and even our houses and now it is ready to make another step into becoming an integrated part of our lives. An augmented reality sat nav is about to take the car satellite navigation systems by storm, according to its developer, Pioneer.

Known mostly for their digital entertainment products, the Japanese company has recently announced their next generation of sat navs, with an AR head-up display (HUD). Despite the characteristics of many other consumer HUDs which have to be worn either in glasses or in a helmet, this attaches comfortably to the sun visor and delivers a projection 3 metres in front of the driver giving the impression of a 30 inch display.

According to Pioneer, this projection does not interfere in any way with what the driver normally sees through the windscreen and it displays location information as a natural part of the landscape. The new augmented reality sat nav is compatible with various smartphones and even sat nav applications, being able to display navigation instructions, points of interest and live traffic information.

Unfortunately, beyond the projection which does not necessarily need any AR technology to work (unless the position of the digital information is determined by the objects present in the field of view), the only other AR-enabled feature is the red light camera warning. This gives a visual and audio warning to the driver when they approach the red light with a speed higher than the one necessary to stop the car safely.

Pioneer has not released any video or any other test results of this new system in order to prove all the features of the new augmented reality sat nav but we can test it for ourselves in about a month when it will be officially released on the market.

Would you be interested in installing this technology in your car? How much do you think the AR sat nav will improve the way we drive in the future? Please leave your comments below.

First Augmented Reality Surgery

Augmented Reality Surgery

Augmented Reality App Used During Liver Surgery

Since the dawn of augmented reality, medicine was always promoted as a one of the big beneficiaries of future AR applications, many publications writing about how AR could be a major milestone in the evolution of modern medicine, especially augmented reality surgery. Everything was mostly theoretical… until now.

A German institute for medical imaging computing has finally created an augmented reality app that could support surgeons and help reduce the rate of complications during operations. Tested successfully for the first time just a week ago, the system proved extremely useful during a live operation.

What the app actually does is to reconstruct the locations of blood vessels in the liver for each patient and digitally superimpose them over the real live stream from the operation theatre. In this way the surgeons could precisely plan how and where to use their scalpel avoiding a hemorrhage and further complications. The precision of this system has to take into consideration the small differences between various people. Although the organs are quite similar in terms of structure and functionality, things like size, shape or colour could differ from a person to another. In order to achieve this accuracy the AR app has used 3D X-ray images taken with established software used already on thousands of patients.

Although the tablet AR app is only particular useful for liver tumour removal for now, the company plans to improve it for operations to other organs. Huge amounts of information that need to be fed to the app and thousands of tests are only a few of the things needed before this app will become a common sight in hospitals. Convincing the doctors that the app works and that the risk is minimised compared to traditional methods might be another difficult venture that could affect its mass medical adoption. The good news however, is that the first step has already been made. Now it is only a matter of time and resources.

Would you trust such an AR app when it comes to your operation? What other AR apps do you see becoming common in medical centres in the near future?

Augmented Reality Gaming Glasses from Microsoft

Microsotf Augmented Reality Gaming Glasses Patent 250pxAfter the initial patent application for a visual image display for both glasses and helmets which was thought to include augmented reality features, Microsoft steps into the spotlight again with another AR patent. And this time it is all about gaming.

The US patent reveals that the AR glasses are using voice recognition software that understands voice commands from players, such as an invitation to participate to a multiplayer game. The gaming system will use eye-tracking information, depth information and even facial recognition.

The images released with the patent show several sensors on the front and the side of the glasses, which supposedly will gather all the information needed for an immersive and seamless multiplayer gaming experience.

With no comments from Microsoft, we can only assume that these AR glasses will most likely be used in conjunction with the newly announced Xbox720, however there is no clear timeline regarding when they will become available.

Looking closer at the patent, there is strong evidence that Microsoft is not currently looking to become a competitor to Google Glasses, at least not for now. Focusing their attention on the multi-player gaming market where Xbox is already a leader gives the tech giant a better chance to succeed.

With several other virtual reality and augmented reality glasses being released, updated and marketed every day, which company do you think will break the ice in selling over 1 million of these devices first?

Do you think Google is already leading this market even before an official launch of their Google Glasses or do you think that more focused devices like the Microsoft Augmented Reality Gaming glasses have a greater opportunity to become popular?

Share your opinions and ideas with us in the comments section below.

Super Mario Bros and Augmented Reality

Mario & Luigi - Super Mario BrosNamed the Greatest Game of All Time by the International Gaming Network (IGN) in 2005, Super Mario Bros is the game many of us grew up with. But how would it be if this classic and, in many ways, traditional game, crossed over from its Mushroom Kingdom into our world through augmented reality?

Nintendo has always used Super Mario Bros as their flagship game series, as shown by their latest Super Mario games available on the market, which continue to be enjoyed by both nostalgic and new players alike. With a history of 30 years (the original Mario Bros game was released in 1983), Mario and his younger brother, Luigi, have already been through many graphical and story upgrades, therefore augmented reality seems a logical step forward.

Nintendo has already made the first timid stride into AR through their “AR Games” pre-loaded app that consists of a series of simple mini games bundled with a few AR markers. Although this might not be the ideal gaming experience for players older than the primary school age, it did demonstrate the technical capabilities of Nintendo devices.

And what better way of revealing their new augmented reality expertise than through a game that everybody loves: Super Mario Bros. There are already a few user video concepts of Super Mario AR games on the web which prove extremely popular among game fans. One that looks particularly amazing was created using a technique called match-moving by a German student for his Bachelor thesis.

With 2013 being declared “The Year of Luigi”, there is a great opportunity for Nintendo to launch a Luigi AR game that can top the variety of Luigi games already present in their online shop. With an increasing pressure of delivering new interactive gaming experiences felt by all gaming platforms, augmented reality could be exactly what the Japanese multinational needs.

Elements 4D – Introducing Augmented Reality to the Masses?

Elements 4DMany companies have tried to bring augmented reality into the mainstream through different applications and games; however none of them have fully succeeded. That’s what DAQRI is hoping to do with Elements 4D – their latest project that is looking for funding and inspiration on Kickstarter.

DAQRI is the company behind over 1,000 AR projects for companies such as Lego, Sony or 20th Century Fox, and despite lacking some awareness in the consumer sector it has already developed several applications for the education, medical and industrial sectors. Nevertheless, this is one of their first consumer-focused products built from the ground-up.

How does Elements 4D work?

Elements 4D Wooden BlocksThe Elements 4D application will use some 3D markers in the form of laser-crafted wooden blocks that will each depict a different chemical element which, when touched together, will trigger a chemical reaction and new molecules will be formed. Don’t worry; this only happens in the digital space through a camera and the app that accompanies these blocks. Animation and video make these interactions even more appealing but are these enough to create the first “killer app for augmented reality”?

What is Elements 4D all about?

Although the chemistry classes may benefit from a modernisation of their teaching techniques that have been using pictures, drawings and styrofoam orbs for years, this may not necessarily be what DAQRI is really after. They don’t even need the $50,000 that they have pledged to raise from Kickstarter in 30 days, especially when they have just announced a $15M investment from a private equity fund. What they do hope to get, beyond the publicity that comes with their announcement, is a healthy amount of feedback and genuine interest from their Kickstart backers.  This can be then leveraged to transform this app into a platform that can be used as the starting point for an endless number of consumer-based augmented reality applications.

DAQRI is doing something similar to what Google has been doing for a while now with their augmented reality Glass project – using brand advocates to develop, educate and further promote the benefits of their product before it is released to the masses. A product launch that is being backed by a large number of people has a much bigger chance of succeeding, because of the vibe that is being generated, but also because each individual then feels that a part of them is in that product, through the feedback they have offered during the pre-launch phase.