I often toss Augmented Reality in the same filthy bucket as QR Codes, an awkward marketing upsell tactic to fool non-technical clients into spending money on unproven initiatives. Case in point for QR Codes: Canada’s CBC overlays them on their TV shows linking to their site. Question: How is opening a QR code reader, lining it up on a TV screen (before the square fades out), taking a photo, then waiting for the site to load, easier than opening a browser and entering cbc.ca? I’m sorry QR codes, I don’t see your relevance in this world. And frankly, you annoy me.
Scott Jochim, the CEO of Augmented Reality Development Labs, agrees with me, “Really? Are you thinking about what you’re doing?” But for Augmented Reality he says, “Mobile is underutilized.” Jochim envisages a world where space ships launch out of books, where it snows indoors, and where he can blast holes in the walls at work. He’s talking about the children’s books that they’re actively releasing this year, but it sounds like pretty crazy stuff, right?
Well, he’s relying on some serious technology to get this done – starting with old fashioned print books. He believes the the move from “physical books to ebooks isn’t the transition,” because advertisers are still onboard with magazines, and ebooks are just popular for their distribution system, says Jochim. For Augmented Reality Development Labs, Jochim says that textbooks are the next natural step using Augmented Reality. Where smartphone-toting students can play, and actually interact, with the content. This is where Jochim gets dreamy, telling me to imagine “[sailing] with Columbus… or [in biology class] seeing species that you can take apart… or open a book and a spaceship flies out.”
“The combinations are truly limitless,” Jochim says.
Jochim realized when he was working on Virtual Reality programs that the biggest problem is that “customers didn’t understand simple human interface design,” he says.
“We need to get away from the phone being the visual to the environment,” says Jochim, which I can’t condone simply on the grounds that it sounds too much like the Parlours in “Fahrenheit 451″. But Jochim sees a melding of the recent OUYA console and Google Glass with his technology as the next reasonable step to moving Augmented Reality into a home environment.
But before that happens, Augmented Reality Development Labs is aiming to “give movie theatres a better way to tell a story,” says Jochim after his recent trip to the Licensing Expo in Las Vegas, a event that defines itself as a conference bringing together retailers, manufacturers, brand owners and marketers on the hunt for new properties and brands for use in other brands.
Currently, though, the biggest barrier to entry, says Jochim, is the processing power of people’s smartphones – but the improvements in just the past two years are significant, and almost at the point to make it (augmented) reality.
The three books they’re now releasing are “Planets,” “Construction Machines,” and “Bugs,” under the Popar Toys name. The books have already won the company the “Best of” category at the New York International Toy Fair, as well as the Best Book/Media of the Year.
Being one of the few companies with an open AR platform, Jochim is looking to license his technology, particularly to a larger publication than his own that’s looking to augment all their books, as well as release more titles over the next year.