The Telegraph recently published an article, “How Supermarkets Prop Up Our Class System” by Harry Wallop introducing his book “Consumed: How Shopping Fed the Class System“. In the article, he discusses how marketers use census data and other location based data to aggregate postcodes into 60 different social groupings that they then repackage and sell back to retailers who use the analysis to micro-target potential shoppers. He believes that instead of creating more opportunities for shoppers, spatial targeting is reinforcing class stereotypes and creating structural inequality.
Geospatial marketing for supermarkets and grocery stores is growing in popularity for industry and public health. The Food Trust documented how Pennsylvania is using geospatial and GIS to target underserved communities for Penn State Public Broadcasting’s Geospatial Revolution Project. Job search databases advertise for positions such as geospatial marketing facilitator, interactive marketer, and geospatial marketing analyst. The Shopper Marketing trade journal lists mobile applications, QR codes, location based shopping, and augmented reality among the trends it uses to both reach and collect data from shoppers.
In today’s society it is difficult for shoppers to take advantage of grocery deals without providing personal information. A LifeHacker article on saving money, “Use “Jenny’s Number” to Get Club Discounts at Stores without Providing Personal Information” jokingly suggested trying to use the phone number from the popular 80’s song. Which semi-seriously raises the question of which social grouping the people who provide her number would fall under or how many shoppers give fake geospatial data.
A big part of my research for about a decade now has been exploring the development of immersive virtual landscapes, and how evolving technologies continue to make impressive strides toward creating compelling and believable virtual worlds. One of the issues that has always been at the forefront is the cost of virtual reality hardware, whether it was early attempts at head-mounted displays or immersive rooms, such as CAVE environments. These technologies can give you amazing simulations, but most users can’t afford to buy the hardware, let alone have the space to set up multi-walled immersive environments. Now, virtual reality technology is increasingly moving toward a consumer experience, with 3D TV’s, smartphone VR and augmented reality apps, and interface devices like Microsoft’s Kinect and even Sony’s Playstation VITA with Augmented Reality (AR) capabilities.
Here’s a cool project that I had to share as well. Earlier this month, USC researchers participating in the Off-the-Shelf Virtual Reality Workshop, held in conjunction with IEEE Virtual Reality 2012 and organized by the Mixed Reality lab at USC, debuted FOV2GO, a portable fold-out smartphone viewer for iPhone and Android (sadly no Windows Phone love) that turns the screen into a 3-D virtual reality system. The viewer is made of cardboard and is easily assembled to look like an old-school ViewMaster, and you insert your smartphone into the FOV2GO and look through the eyepieces for a stereo 3D effect. To create your own 3D virtual environments to explore, there are downloadable software tools that are part of the project as well. I’d really like to use the FOV2GO in my class, so I’ll have to find out if they’ll be available in larger numbers.
This short YouTube video illustrates the FOV2GO in action:
I’m going to cop to this not being an overtly geographic post… but it’s Lego. And augmented reality. If I may indulge to my inner child for a moment… SQUEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!! In all seriousness, it’s a pretty need implementation of augmented reality in that it doesn’t require any special printing on the box. They simply take the picture in 2D and create a 3D model from its pre-configured library, adding in animation and sound. That works pretty well if you have a set number of known models. I also really like some of the navigation techniques they’ve used.
In the mad scramble to finish editing my PhD dissertation and graduate, I haven’t been following the latest and greatest tech in the geospatial realm as much as I should be, but I am definitely intrigued by the launch of Layar Vision. It’s an extension to the mobile augmented reality Layar platform that allows a smartphone with a Layar Vision app to recognize real-world objects and then trigger digital content based on that object. Developers can build applications that leverage this functionality for all kinds of uses, such as a user in a retail store who wants content on a potential purchase.
What is really interesting to me about Layar Vision, which has also been highlighted in a number of writeups about the launch, is that by giving the smartphone the capability to recognize real-world objects no matter where they are located, you can get around one of the big challenges in implementing AR. By putting the focus on objects rather than locations, you don’t have to create a database of geotagged objects with specific locations. If a user wants augmented content for a new video game, they can scan the game at any place and still get the content. By the same token, if you want the specials at a particular restaurant, you can just scan the menu, no matter where you are sitting in the restaurant. If a developer wants to combine that augmented content with location-specific info, they can link the Layar Vision functionality to other location-based data sets and functions.
Of course, Layar Vision as well as the Layar platform are really developer tools, and the goal is to get consumer applications out there that are built on the platform. To try to get developers working with Layar Vision, Layar is sponsoring the Layar Creation Challenge, which is offering cash prizes to developers who come up with the most useful and innovative concepts for Layar Vision centered around the publishing industry, which is an area where the Layar folks think the technology will really be effective.
What do you think? Is augmented reality finally going to hit the mainstream?
On this memorial day weekend the History Channel is kicking off a week of Civil War themed shows. While watching I thought I’d see if there were any interesting maps available on the intertubes. What did I find? Some wonderful animated maps from the Civil War Trust ! The maps are flash based and progress through some key battles of the war. The site also provides users historical maps and new digital maps that are static.
Additionally, the site has available BattleApps. The BattleApps are virtual Civil War tour guides for the war or specific battles for the iPhone or iPad. The apps are location aware and throughout the tour one could view video clips from the national park service and see locations of troops of both the North and South. Another great example of giving old paper maps a new lease on life with digital innovation!
Augmented reality is one of those technologies that has seemed like it would be next big thing for the last couple of years, but it has proven pretty difficult to translate from WOW factor proof-of-concept prototypes to actual commercial implementations. When I saw this demo video of Sony’s Smart AR, though, I have to say I was pretty impressed with how good the AR model looks in the real-world environment it’s being projected into, and how responsive it is. The SmartAR seems to be able to handle movement in the 3D space really well, and the virtual object is not tied to the marker surface, which is really important in making the augmented reality compelling. Another aspect of SmartAR technology allows a user to capture an image of an object and then access additional information about that object through the device. For Sony, of course, implementing technology like Smart AR for gaming and other commercial uses is certainly a main focus, but I can see tons of other applications for markerless, high-speed augmented reality.
Mashable (perhaps one of the cooler sites I visit each day) has a nifty story about an artist who drew Google Maps icons as if they existed in the real world. It’s rather interesting to think about these big push pins existing in real life, or a pop-up box over a building. Take away the surprised looking people and I think we’ll have a pretty good idea of what large scale augmented reality is likely to look in the near future.
As you all know by now, I am a fan of Photosynth. Just a few days ago, the creator of Seadragon and co-creator of Photosynth, Blaise Aguera y Arcas gave a great presentation at TED 2010 and showed a demo of some new augmented reality type features being integrated into Bing Maps, including Indoor Panoramas (enhanced in the demo by the integration of real-time video that was embedded into the imagery – this cool augmented reality type functionality is still in the concept stage), Streetside Photos which mines geo-tagged Creative Commons photos from Flickr and incorporates them into Streetside, and finishing off with a demo of the integration of Worldwide Telescope that would allow the user to look up while in a street view and see the stars and constellations above them. Check out the video:
Augmented Reality is one of those cool tech innovations that has been tantalizing us for years as the “Next Big Thing”, but the immense challenges in conceptualizing and implementing AR design and technology mean that actual AR applications are still pretty few and far between. Some exciting projects are out there and we’ve mentioned several of the iPhone and mobile apps, like Layar, that are taking the handheld approach to AR. A cool project out of Japan, the N Building in Tokyo, takes mobile AR to the next level. The building’s whole facade is part of the AR experience, as the windows are QR codes that contain information about what’s inside the building. A user can stand outside and point their mobile device (with the appropriate app installed of course) at the N building, snap a picture of one or more of the windows, and find out what’s inside, get info and specials for stores, and even see who’s tweeting inside and what they saying! The N Building is a collaboration between Terradesign and Qosmo.