A few weeks ago, I posted an item about CrowdOptic and how its technology was behind a crowd-powered virtual art gallery augmented reality experience for Lancome at the popular Luminato Festival in Toronto. It highlighted not just what was going on at the festival but also how CrowdOptic technology was at the leading edge of augmented reality (AR) taking it beyond static uses and leveraging the growing ubiquity of smartphones, tablets and wearable technologies.
The company has revealed that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) recognized its innovation with an allowance for mobile focus awareness capabilities. The company also announced the availability of a set of developer tools, including an SDK and Open API, so developers can build on its maturing platform and further expand the growing market for context-aware computing.
"A user's physical location is an important -- yet too blunt -- an instrument to convey true context," said CrowdOptic CEO Jon Fisher. "People in the same location may not have the same focus. Similarly, as wearable technologies improve their range, a wearer may be very far away from his actual focus."
Both push and pull marketing models will come to depend upon knowing the specific location where a user is focused in real time, as well as the ability to identify groups of people who share the same focus. Commented Fisher: "I don't want to be grouped socially with everyone who is standing on a platform in Grand Central Station at the same time I am. I want to be grouped with people who actually share my interests in the context of what we're all watching."
Image via Shutterstock
For those unfamiliar with crowd-powering and the creation of augmented/enhanced realities a quick recap is in order as to what is at work here. As mentioned in the Luninato article, CrowdOptic takes a "heat" signal of crowd activity as it occurs -- and also after the fact – using powerful analytics. The information about where smartphone cameras are and where they are pointed is instantly filtered and then literally re-imagined as a new way of looking at what is happening at a given location.
This re-imagining—where CrowdOptic identifies, tags and rebroadcasts the live augmented experience to be viewed on almost any device—is not just augmented reality. In truth, it is a more context-based and richer way to experience any large live event. And, also as noted, it has been used to power a wide range of apps that let users employ the cameras on their phones to interact with others who share their focused interests.
While the recognition by the USPTO is certainly a feather in the company’s cap, opening the platform to developers is equally if not more important. Ever since the term “immersive” was applied to enriching user experiences, researchers have contended that they thought the future was about not just making interactions the “next best thing to being there,” but actually better. Augmented reality experiences may or may not be better, but they certainly have added a new dimension to the way in which we can experience the world and how marketers will be able to reach and engage us with what will hopefully be compelling experiences. It will be very interesting to see just how far and how fast developers can push the envelope and the monetization strategies employed to leverage this.
One thing that seems predictable is that CrowdOptic and the industry analysts who follow augmented reality are very likely correct in predicting that AR is going to be a foundational part of the mobile device ecosystem going forward. I, for one, am looking forward to going to an event in the near future where I have an AR experience. It might be interesting for example to see what the crowd is up to at the next Consumer Electronics Show (CES). The possibilities do seem endless. You can be sure that enquiring marketing minds are going to be very contextually-aware as to how this space unfolds.
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